Adipose type I interferon signalling protects against metabolic dysfunction

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Low-grade chronic inflammation emerges as a potent driver of insulin resistance and glucose dysregulation in obesity and associated non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The liver, subcutaneous fat and the immune system participate in disturbances of metabolism. Type I interferon (IFN) signalling initiated by innate and adaptive immunity modulates inflammatory responses consequent to infection. However, little is known about the role of type I IFN signalling in metabolic diseases and the development of NAFLD.


We determined the impact of type I IFN signalling by tissue-specific deletion of interferon (α and β) receptor 1 (Ifnar1) in hepatocytes (Ifnar1Δhep), adipocytes (Ifnar1Δat), intestinal epithelial cells (Ifnar1ΔIEC) or myelocytes (Ifnar1Δmyel) on glucose metabolism, obesity and hepatic disease in mice exposed to a high-fat or methionine-choline-deficient (MCD) diet. Furthermore, we investigated the expression of type I IFN-regulated genes in patients with obesity undergoing laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB).


Long chain fatty acids induce type I IFN responses in murine hepatocytes and macrophages and exposure to a high-fat diet elicited type I IFN-regulated gene expression in the liver of wild-type mice. Hepatocyte-specific, but not adipose tissue-specific deletion of Ifnar1 worsened steatosis and inflammation induced by the MCD diet. In contrast, adipose-specific, but not hepatocyte-specific deletion of Ifnar1 deteriorated metabolic dysregulation induced by a high-fat diet, indicated by increased weight gain, insulin resistance and an impaired glucose tolerance. Abrogated type I IFN signalling in myeloid or intestinal epithelial cells did not modulate susceptibility to metabolic or hepatic disease. Improved metabolic control in patients with obesity after LAGB was associated with increased expression of type I IFN-regulated genes in subcutaneous adipose tissue and liver.


Our study implicates a role for adipose and hepatocyte type I IFN signalling in diet-induced metabolic dysregulation and hepatic disease. Further studies on type I IFN signalling in metabolic diseases are warranted.

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