Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Obesity-induced DNA released from adipocytes stimulates chronic adipose tissue inflammation and insulin resistance

Science Advances  25 Mar 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 3, e1501332
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501332

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Obesity stimulates chronic inflammation in adipose tissue, which is associated with insulin resistance, although the underlying mechanism remains largely unknown. Here we showed that obesity-related adipocyte degeneration causes release of cell-free DNA (cfDNA), which promotes macrophage accumulation in adipose tissue via Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9), originally known as a sensor of exogenous DNA fragments. Fat-fed obese wild-type mice showed increased release of cfDNA, as determined by the concentrations of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) and double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) in plasma. cfDNA released from degenerated adipocytes promoted monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) expression in wild-type macrophages, but not in TLR9-deficient (Tlr9−/−) macrophages. Fat-fed Tlr9−/− mice demonstrated reduced macrophage accumulation and inflammation in adipose tissue and better insulin sensitivity compared with wild-type mice, whereas bone marrow reconstitution with wild-type bone marrow restored the attenuation of insulin resistance observed in fat-fed Tlr9−/− mice. Administration of a TLR9 inhibitory oligonucleotide to fat-fed wild-type mice reduced the accumulation of macrophages in adipose tissue and improved insulin resistance. Furthermore, in humans, plasma ssDNA level was significantly higher in patients with computed tomography–determined visceral obesity and was associated with homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), which is the index of insulin resistance. Our study may provide a novel mechanism for the development of sterile inflammation in adipose tissue and a potential therapeutic target for insulin resistance.

  • cell-free DNA
  • inflammation
  • adipose tissue
  • insulin resistance
  • macrophage
  • Toll-like receptor-9

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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