Adaptive immunity and metabolic health: Harmony becomes dissonant in obesity and aging

Leena P. Bharath, Blanche C. Ip, Barbara S. Nikolajczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Adipose tissue (AT) is the primary energy reservoir organ, and thereby plays a critical role in energy homeostasis and regulation of metabolism. AT expands in response to chronic overnutrition or aging and becomes a major source of inflammation that has marked influence on systemic metabolism. The chronic, sterile inflammation that occurs in the AT during the development of obesity or in aging contributes to onset of devastating diseases such as insulin resistance, diabetes, and cardiovascular pathologies.Numerous studies have shown that inflammation in the visceral AT of humans and animals is a critical trigger for the development of metabolic syndrome. This work underscores the well-supported conclusion that the inflammatory immune response and metabolic pathways in the AT are tightly interwoven by multiple layers of relatively conserved mechanisms. During the development of diet-induced obesity or age-associated adiposity, cells of the innate and the adaptive immune systems infiltrate and proliferate in the AT. Macrophages, which dominate AT-associated immune cells in mouse models of obesity, but are less dominant in obese people, have been studied extensively. However, cells of the adaptive immune system, including T cells and B cells, contribute significantly to AT inflammation, perhaps more in humans than in mice. Lymphocytes regulate recruitment of innate immune cells into AT, and produce cytokines that influence the helpful-to-harmful inflammatory balance that, in turn, regulates organismal metabolism. This review describes inflammation, or more precisely, metabolic inflammation (metaflammation) with an eye toward the AT and the roles lymphocytes play in regulation of systemic metabolism during obesity and aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1307-1337
Number of pages31
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Physiological Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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