Contribution of lipid-reactive natural killer T cells to obesity-associated inflammation and insulin resistance

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Abstract

Obesity is associated with a low-grade, chronic inflammation that promotes the development of a variety of diseases, most notably type 2 diabetes. A number of cell types of the innate and adaptive immune systems have been implicated in this process. Recent studies have focused on the role of natural killer T (NKT) cells, a subset of T lymphocytes that react with lipids, in the development of obesity-associated diseases. These studies have shown that invariant NKT (iNKT) cells, a population of NKT cells expressing a semi-invariant T cell receptor, become rapidly activated in response to lipid excess, and that these cells influence the capacity of other leukocytes to produce cytokines during the progression of obesity. The role of NKT cells in obesity-associated inflammation and insulin resistance has been investigated using NKT celldeficient animals, adoptive transfer of NKT cells and an iNKT cell agonist. While divergent results have been obtained, it is now clear that NKT cells can modulate the inflammatory milieu in obesity, suggesting that these cells could be targeted for therapeutic intervention in obesity-associated diseases.

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