Fatty Acid Metabolites Combine with Reduced β Oxidation to Activate Th17 Inflammation in Human Type 2 Diabetes

Dequina A. Nicholas, Elizabeth A. Proctor, Madhur Agrawal, Anna C. Belkina, Stephen C. Van Nostrand, Leena Panneerseelan-Bharath, Albert R. Jones, Forum Raval, Blanche C. Ip, Min Zhu, Jose M. Cacicedo, Chloe Habib, Nestor Sainz-Rueda, Leah Persky, Patrick G. Sullivan, Barbara E. Corkey, Caroline M. Apovian, Philip A. Kern, Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Barbara S. Nikolajczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Mechanisms that regulate metabolites and downstream energy generation are key determinants of T cell cytokine production, but the processes underlying the Th17 profile that predicts the metabolic status of people with obesity are untested. Th17 function requires fatty acid uptake, and our new data show that blockade of CPT1A inhibits Th17-associated cytokine production by cells from people with type 2 diabetes (T2D). A low CACT:CPT1A ratio in immune cells from T2D subjects indicates altered mitochondrial function and coincides with the preference of these cells to generate ATP through glycolysis rather than fatty acid oxidation. However, glycolysis was not critical for Th17 cytokines. Instead, β oxidation blockade or CACT knockdown in T cells from lean subjects to mimic characteristics of T2D causes cells to utilize 16C-fatty acylcarnitine to support Th17 cytokines. These data show long-chain acylcarnitine combines with compromised β oxidation to promote disease-predictive inflammation in human T2D. Although glycolysis generally fuels inflammation, Nicholas, Proctor, and Agrawal et al. report that PBMCs from subjects with type 2 diabetes use a different mechanism to support chronic inflammation largely independent of fuel utilization. Loss- and gain-of-function experiments in cells from healthy subjects show mitochondrial alterations combine with increases in fatty acid metabolites to drive chronic T2D-like inflammation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-461.e5
JournalCell Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 3 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grant R01DK108056 (B.S.N., C.M.A., and D.A.L.), Army Research Office Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies grant W911NF-09-0001 (D.A.L.), UL1TR001998 from NCATS (P.A.K.), R01 DK DK99618 (B.E.C.), and P01 DK46200 (B.E.C.). This work was also supported by the University of Kentucky College of Medicine (B.S.N.), University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center Flow Cytometry and Immune Monitoring Shared Resource Facility P30CA177558 (B.S.N.), The Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center Boston University Flow Cytometry Core Facility , Boston University Inflammatory Disorders Training Grant T32AI089673 , Boston University Research Training in Blood Diseases and Resources T32HL007501 , and Boston University Medical Center, Metabolism, Endocrinology, and Obesity Training Grant T32DK007201 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Inc.


  • fatty acid oxidation
  • glycolysis
  • immunometabolism
  • metaflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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