The role of inflammatory cytokines in diabetes and its complications

J Periodontol. 2008 Aug;79(8 Suppl):1527-34. doi: 10.1902/jop.2008.080246.


The prevalence of diabetes worldwide is increasing rapidly in association with the increase in obesity. Complications are a major fear of patients with diabetes. Complications of diabetes affect many tissues and organs, causing retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, cardiovascular diseases, peripheral vascular diseases, stroke, and periodontal pathologies. Immunologic abnormalities are associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and diabetic complications. T cell abnormalities are believed to be the major cause of autoimmune disease in type 1 diabetes, leading to the destruction of pancreatic islets. In type 2 diabetes, inflammation and activation of monocytes are postulated to be important for enhancing insulin resistance and may contribute to the loss of insulin secretory function by islet cells. Many factors can enhance insulin resistance, including genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and other conditions, such as chronic inflammation or infection. Increases in inflammation, such as activation of monocytes and increased levels of inflammatory markers, e.g., C-reactive protein, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, and other cytokines, were reported in insulin-resistant states without diabetes. One possible mechanism is that abnormal levels of metabolites, such as lipids, fatty acids, and various cytokines from the adipose tissue, activate monocytes and increase the secretion of inflammatory cytokines, enhancing insulin resistance. According to this model, obesity activates monocytes and enhances insulin resistance, increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes. Abnormalities in innate immunity might also participate in the development of diabetic complications. In general, hyperglycemia is the main initiator of diabetic retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy, and it participates in the development of diabetic cardiovascular diseases. Although the precise role of inflammation in the development of diabetic microvascular diseases is still unclear, it is likely that inflammation induced by diabetes and insulin resistance can accelerate atherosclerosis in patients with diabetes. Also, it was shown that conditions with an inflammatory basis, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, can contribute to periodontal disease, suggesting that periodontal abnormalities may be partly influenced by inflammatory changes. Further research is required to confirm the role of inflammation and the onset of diabetes, microvascular diseases, and periodontal pathologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Diabetes Complications / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology*
  • Insulin Resistance / immunology
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Periodontal Diseases / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators