Adipose tissue tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6 expression in human obesity and insulin resistance

Philip A. Kern, Subramanian Ranganathan, Chunling Li, Linda Wood, Gouri Ranganathan

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1595 Scopus citations


Adipose tissue expresses tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin (IL)-6, which may cause obesity-related insulin resistance. We measured TNF and IL-6 expression in the adipose tissue of 50 lean and obese subjects without diabetes. Insulin sensitivity (SI) was determined by an intravenous glucose tolerance test with minimal-model analysis. When lean [body mass index (BMI) <25 kg/m2] and obese (BMI 30-40 kg/m2) subjects were compared, there was a 7.5-fold increase in TNF secretion (P < 0.05) from adipose tissue, and the TNF secretion was inversely related to SI (r = -0.42, P < 0.02). IL-6 was abundantly expressed by adipose tissue. In contrast to TNF, plasma (rather than adipose) IL-6 demonstrated the strongest relationship with obesity and insulin resistance. Plasma IL-6 was significantly higher in obese subjects and demonstrated a highly significant inverse relationship with SI (r = -0.71, P < 0.001). To separate the effects of BMI from SI, subjects who were discordant for SI were matched for BMI, age, and gender. By use of this approach, subjects with low SI demonstrated a 3.0-fold increased level of TNF secretion from adipose tissue and a 2.3-fold higher plasma IL-6 level (P < 0.05) compared with matched subjects with a high SI. Plasma IL-6 was significantly associated with plasma nonesterified fatty acid levels (r = 0.49, P < 0.002). Thus the local expression of TNF and plasma IL-6 are higher in subjects with obesity-related insulin resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E745-E751
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5 43-5
StatePublished - May 2001


  • Type 2 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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