T lymphocyte activation in visceral adipose tissue of patients with oesophageal adenocarcinoma

Br J Surg. 2011 Jul;98(7):964-74. doi: 10.1002/bjs.7498. Epub 2011 Apr 21.


Background: Visceral adipose tissue may fuel obesity-associated chronic inflammation and tumorigenesis. T cells may be important in visceral adipose tissue in driving inflammation, but they have not yet been characterized in patients with cancer. This study aimed to characterize T lymphocytes in visceral adipose tissue and peripheral blood from patients with oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

Methods: Omental fat was taken from 35 patients with oesophageal adenocarcinoma at the start of surgery. Flow cytometry was performed to assess T cell activation status and cytokine production in omentum and peripheral blood.

Results: A large population of lymphocytes was present in the omentum. Omental CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells displayed significantly enhanced expression of the T cell activation markers CD69 (P < 0·001) and CD107a (CD8(+) T cells: P < 0·01), and significantly decreased CD62L expression (P < 0·05), compared with blood. Significantly higher proportions of CD45RO(+) T cells compared with CD45RA(+) T cells were present in omentum (P < 0·001 and P = 0·012 for CD4(+) and CD8(+) cells respectively). Interferon γ was the most abundant cytokine expressed by omental T cells, with a significantly higher level than in blood and subcutaneous adipose tissue (P < 0·01).

Conclusion: Visceral adipose tissue is a rich source of activated proinflammatory CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells. It may fuel chronic inflammation via T cell-mediated pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / immunology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • CD4-CD8 Ratio
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Omentum / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Interferon-gamma