Clinical evidence that the blockade of IL-1? in type-2 diabetic patients improves glycemia is indicative of an autoinflammatory mechanism that may trigger adiposity-driven pancreatic damage. IL-1? is a key contributor to the obesity-induced inflammation and subsequent insulin resistance, pancreatic ?-cell dysfunction, and the onset of type 2 diabetes. Our previous studies demonstrated that the ceramides activate the Nod-like receptor family, pyrin domain containing 3 (Nlrp3) inflammasome to cause the generation of mature IL-1? and ablation of the Nlrp3 inflammasome in diet-induced obesity improves insulin signaling. However, it remains unclear whether the posttranslational processing of active IL-1? in pancreas is regulated by the NLRP3 inflammasome or whether the alternate mechanisms play a dominant role in chronic obesity-induced pancreatic ?-cell exhaustion. Here we show that loss of ASC, a critical adaptor required for the assembly of the NLRP3 and absent in melanoma 2 inflammasome substantially improves the insulin action. Surprisingly, despite lower insulin resistance in the chronically obese NLRP3 and ASC knockout mice, the insulin levels were substantially higher when the inflammasome pathway was eliminated. The obesity-induced increase in maturation of pancreatic IL-1? and pancreatic islet fibrosis was dependent on the NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Furthermore, elimination of NLRP3 inflammasome protected the pancreatic ?-cells from cell death caused by long-term high-fat feeding during obesity with significant increase in the size of the islets of Langerhans. Collectively, this study provides direct in vivo evidence that activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in diet-induced obesity is a critical trigger in causing pancreatic damage and is an important mechanism of progression toward type 2 diabetes.
The emergence of chronic inflammation during obesity in the absence of overt infection or well-defined autoimmune processes is a puzzling phenomenon. The Nod-like receptor (NLR) family of innate immune cell sensors, such as the nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich-containing family, pyrin domain-containing-3 (Nlrp3, but also known as Nalp3 or cryopyrin) inflammasome are implicated in recognizing certain nonmicrobial originated danger signals leading to caspase-1 activation and subsequent interleukin-1? (IL-1?) and IL-18 secretion. We show that calorie restriction and exercise-mediated weight loss in obese individuals with type 2 diabetes is associated with a reduction in adipose tissue expression of Nlrp3 as well as with decreased inflammation and improved insulin sensitivity. We further found that the Nlrp3 inflammasome senses lipotoxicity-associated increases in intracellular ceramide to induce caspase-1 cleavage in macrophages and adipose tissue. Ablation of Nlrp3 in mice prevents obesity-induced inflammasome activation in fat depots and liver as well as enhances insulin signaling. Furthermore, elimination of Nlrp3 in obese mice reduces IL-18 and adipose tissue interferon-? (IFN-?) expression, increases naive T cell numbers and reduces effector T cell numbers in adipose tissue. Collectively, these data establish that the Nlrp3 inflammasome senses obesity-associated danger signals and contributes to obesity-induced inflammation and insulin resistance.
Emerging evidence suggests that increases in activated T cell populations in adipose tissue may contribute toward obesity-associated metabolic syndrome. The present study investigates three unanswered questions: 1) Do adipose-resident T cells (ARTs) from lean and obese mice have altered cytokine production in response to TCR ligation?; 2) Do the extralymphoid ARTs possess a unique TCR repertoire compared with lymphoid-resident T cells and whether obesity alters the TCR diversity in specific adipose depots?; and 3) Does short-term elimination of T cells in epididymal fat pad without disturbing the systemic T cell homeostasis regulate inflammation and insulin-action during obesity? We found that obesity reduced the frequency of naive ART cells in s.c. fat and increased the effector-memory populations in visceral fat. The ARTs from diet-induced obese (DIO) mice had a higher frequency of IFN-gamma(+), granzyme B(+) cells, and upon TCR ligation, the ARTs from DIO mice produced increased levels of proinflammatory mediators. Importantly, compared with splenic T cells, ARTs exhibited markedly restricted TCR diversity, which was further compromised by obesity. Acute depletion of T cells from epididymal fat pads improved insulin action in young DIO mice but did not reverse obesity-associated feed forward cascade of chronic systemic inflammation and insulin resistance in middle-aged DIO mice. Collectively, these data establish that ARTs have a restricted TCR-Vbeta repertoire, and T cells contribute toward the complex proinflammatory microenvironment of adipose tissue in obesity. Development of future long-term T cell depletion protocols specific to visceral fat may represent an additional strategy to manage obesity-associated comorbidities.
As the expanding obese population grows older, their successful immunologic aging will be critical to enhancing the health span. Obesity increases risk of infections and cancer, suggesting adverse effects on immune surveillance. Here, we report that obesity compromises the mechanisms regulating T-cell generation by inducing premature thymic involution. Diet-induced obesity reduced thymocyte counts and significantly increased apoptosis of developing T-cell populations. Obesity accelerated the age-related reduction of T-cell receptor (TCR) excision circle bearing peripheral lymphocytes, an index of recently generated T cells from thymus. Consistent with reduced thymopoiesis, dietary obesity led to reduction in peripheral naive T cells with increased frequency of effector-memory cells. Defects in thymopoiesis in obese mice were related with decrease in the lymphoid-primed multipotent progenitor (Lin-Sca1+Kit+ Flt3+) as well as common lymphoid progenitor (Lin-Sca1+CD117(lo)CD127+) pools. The TCR spectratyping analysis showed that obesity compromised V-beta TCR repertoire diversity. Furthermore, the obesity induced by melanocortin 4 receptor deficiency also constricted the T-cell repertoire diversity, recapitulating the thymic defects observed with diet-induced obesity. In middle-aged humans, progressive adiposity with or without type 2 diabetes also compromised thymic output. Collectively, these findings establish that obesity constricts T-cell diversity by accelerating age-related thymic involution.
Chemokines mediate the signaling and migration of T cells, but little is known about the transcriptional events involved therein. Microarray analysis of CXC chemokine ligand (CXCL) 12-treated T cells revealed that Wnt ligands are significantly up-regulated during CXCL12 treatment. Real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analysis confirmed that the expression of noncanonical Wnt pathway members (eg, Wnt5A) was specifically up-regulated during CXCL12 stimulation, whereas beta-catenin and canonical Wnt family members were selectively down-regulated. Wnt5A augmented signaling through the CXCL12-CXCR4 axis via the activation of protein kinase C. Moreover, Wnt5A expression was required for CXCL12-mediated T-cell migration, and rWnt5A sensitized human T cells to CXCL12-induced migration. Furthermore, Wnt5A expression was also required for the sustained expression of CXCR4. These results were further supported in vivo using EL4 thymoma metastasis as a model of T-cell migration. Together, these data demonstrate that Wnt5A is a critical mediator of CXCL12-CXCR4 signaling and migration in human and murine T cells.
With progressive aging, adipocytes are the major cell types that constitute the bulk of thymic microenvironment. Understanding the origin of thymic adipocytes and mechanisms responsible for age-related thymic adiposity is thus germane for the design of long lasting thymic rejuvenation strategies. We have recently identified that ghrelin, an orexigenic anti-inflammatory peptide, can partially reverse age-related thymic involution. Here we demonstrate that Ghrl and ghrelin receptor (growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR)) are expressed in thymic stromal cells and that their expression declines with physiological aging. Genetic ablation of ghrelin and GHSR leads to loss of thymic epithelial cells (TEC) and an increase in adipogenic fibroblasts in the thymus, suggesting potential cellular transitions. Using FoxN1Cre;R26RstopLacZ double transgenic mice, we provide qualitative evidence that thymic epithelial cells can transition to mesenchymal cells that express proadipogenic regulators in the thymus. We found that loss of functional Ghrl-GHSR interactions facilitates EMT and induces thymic adipogenesis with age. In addition, the compromised thymic stromal microenvironment due to lack of Ghrl-GHSR interactions is associated with reduced number of naive T cells. These data suggest that Ghrl may be a novel regulator of EMT and preserves thymic stromal cell microenvironment by controlling age-related adipocyte development within the thymus.
The adipocytes are the predominant cell types that constitute the bulk of the thymic microenvironment by the fifth decade of life in healthy humans. An age-related increase in thymic adiposity is associated with reduced thymopoiesis and compromised immune surveillance in the elderly. However, the mechanisms regulating the generation of intrathymic adipocytes during aging remain to be elucidated. Here, we report that the CD45- thymic stromal cells (TSCs) are amenable to adipogenesis. We identified that the Wnt inhibitor axin is expressed in the lymphoid as well as stromal cells of the thymus with increased expression in CD45- TSCs of older mice. Knockdown of axin by RNA interference in CD45- primary TSCs led to a marked reduction in adipogenesis with significantly lower expression of adipogenic transcripts peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor 2 (PPAR), adipocyte fatty acid-binding protein (aP2), and perilipin. Age-related elevated axin expression was increased specifically in thymic fibroblasts and medullary thymic epithelial cells (TECs) but not in the cortical TEC or CD45+ cells. Consistent with a role of axin in promoting thymic adipogenesis, axin expression was also colocalized with lipid-expressing adipogenic cells in aging thymus. The prolongevity intervention, caloric restriction (CR), prevented the age-related increase in axin and the adipogenic cell in the thymus together with increase in thymic output. We have recently demonstrated that CR induces ghrelin, which can partially reverse thymic involution. Here, we show that axin expression is not affected by ablation of ghrelin receptors in aging mice, suggesting a ghrelin-independent mechanism for regulation of axin. Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that blocking the specific proadipogenic signals in the thymus may complement the present approaches to rejuvenate thymic function during aging.
The decline in adaptive immunity, naïve T-cell output and a contraction in the peripheral T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire with age are largely attributable to thymic involution and the loss of critical cytokines and hormones within the thymic microenvironment. To assess the molecular changes associated with this loss of thymic function, we used cDNA microarray analyses to examine the transcriptomes of thymocytes from mice of various ages ranging from very young (1 month) to very old (24 months). Genes associated with various biological and molecular processes including oxidative phosphorylation, T- and B- cell receptor signaling and antigen presentation were observed to significantly change with thymocyte age. These include several immunoglobulin chains, chemokine and ribosomal proteins, annexin A2, vav 1 and several S100 signaling proteins. The increased expression of immunoglobulin genes in aged thymocytes could be attributed to the thymic B cells which were found to be actively producing IgG and IgM antibodies. Upon further examination, we found that purified thymic T cells derived from aged but not young thymi also exhibited IgM on their cell surface suggesting the possible presence of auto-antibodies on the surface thymocytes with advancing age. These studies provide valuable insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms associated with thymic aging.
The collapse of thymic stromal cell microenvironment with age and resultant inability of the thymus to produce naive T cells contributes to lower immune-surveillance in the elderly. Here we show that age-related increase in lipotoxic danger signals such as free cholesterol (FC) and ceramides, leads to thymic caspase-1 activation via the Nlrp3 inflammasome. Elimination of Nlrp3 and Asc, a critical adaptor required for inflammasome assembly, reduces age-related thymic atrophy and results in an increase in cortical thymic epithelial cells, T cell progenitors and maintenance of T cell repertoire diversity. Using a mouse model of irradiation and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), we show that deletion of the Nlrp3 inflammasome accelerates T cell reconstitution and immune recovery in middle-aged animals. Collectively, these data demonstrate that lowering inflammasome-dependent caspase-1 activation increases thymic lymphopoiesis and suggest that Nlrp3 inflammasome inhibitors may aid the re-establishment of a diverse T cell repertoire in middle-aged or elderly patients undergoing HSCT.
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