Aims/hypothesis: The role of IL-6 in the development of obesity and hepatic insulin resistance is unclear and still the subject of controversy. We aimed to determine whether global deletion of Il6 in mice (Il6 (-/-)) results in standard chow-induced and high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity, hepatosteatosis, inflammation and insulin resistance.
Methods: Male, 8-week-old Il6 (-/-) and littermate control mice were fed a standard chow or HFD for 12 weeks and phenotyped accordingly.
Results: Il6 (-/-) mice displayed obesity, hepatosteatosis, liver inflammation and insulin resistance when compared with control mice on a standard chow diet. When fed a HFD, the Il6 (-/-) and control mice had marked, equivalent gains in body weight, fat mass and ectopic lipid deposition in the liver relative to chow-fed animals. Despite this normalisation, the greater liver inflammation, damage and insulin resistance observed in chow-fed Il6 (-/-) mice relative to control persisted when both were fed the HFD. Microarray analysis from livers of mice fed a HFD revealed that genes associated with oxidative phosphorylation, the electron transport chain and tricarboxylic acid cycle were uniformly decreased in Il6 (-/-) relative to control mice. This coincided with reduced maximal activity of the mitochondrial enzyme β-hydroxyacyl-CoA-dehydrogenase and decreased levels of mitochondrial respiratory chain proteins.
Conclusions/interpretation: Our data suggest that IL-6 deficiency exacerbates HFD-induced hepatic insulin resistance and inflammation, a process that appears to be related to defects in mitochondrial metabolism.