Success of adipose tissue engineering for soft tissue repair has been limited by insufficient adipogenic differentiation, an unfavorable host response, and insufficient vascularization. In this study, we examined how scaffold-free spheroid and fibrin-based environments impact these parameters in human adipose-derived stromal cell (ASC)-based adipose constructs. ASCs were differentiated in spheroids or fibrin-based constructs. After 7 days, conditioned medium was collected and spheroids/fibrin-based constructs were either harvested or implanted subcutaneously in athymic mice. Following 7 days of implantation, the number of blood vessels in fibrin-based constructs was significantly higher than in spheroids (93 +/- 45 vs. 23 +/- 11 vessels/mm(2)) and the inflammatory response to fibrin-based constructs was less severe. The reasons for these results were investigated further in vitro. We found that ASCs in fibrin-based constructs secreted significantly higher levels of the angiogenic factors VEGF and HGF and lower levels of the inflammatory cytokine IL-8. Furthermore, ASCs in fibrin-based constructs secreted significantly higher levels of leptin and showed a 2.5-fold upregulation of the adipogenic transcription factor PPARG and a fourfold to fivefold upregulation of the adipocyte-specific markers FABP4, perilipin, and leptin. These results indicate that fibrin-based ASC constructs are potentially more suitable for ASC-based adipose tissue reconstruction than scaffold-free spheroids.