Metabolism meets immunity: The role of free fatty acid receptors in the immune system

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There are significant numbers of nutrient sensing G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be found in cells of the immune system and in tissues that are involved in metabolic function, such as the pancreas or the intestinal epithelium. The family of free fatty acid receptors (FFAR1-4, GPR84), plus a few other metabolite sensing receptors (GPR109A, GPR91, GPR35) have been for this reason the focus of studies linking the effects of nutrients with immunological responses. A number of the beneficial anti-inflammatory effects credited to dietary fats such as omega-3 fatty acids are attributed to their actions on FFAR4.This might play an important protective role in the development of obesity, insulin resistance or asthma. The role of the short-chain fatty acids resulting from fermentation of fibre by the intestinal microbiota in regulating acute inflammatory responses is also discussed. Finally we assess the therapeutic potential of this family of receptors to treat pathologies where inflammation is a major factor such as type 2 diabetes, whether by the use of novel synthetic molecules or by the modulation of the individual’s diet.

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