Recent studies in rodents indicate that the nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich-containing family, pyrin domain-containing-3 (NLRP3) inflammasome and a proinflammatory shift in the T cell population in adipose tissue (AT) contribute to AT inflammation and insulin resistance. We investigated: (1) the interplay between the NLRP3 inflammasome and T cell populations in abdominal subcutaneous AT in obese and lean humans in relation to AT inflammatory processes, and (2) involvement of the NLRP3 inflammasome and T cell populations in insulin resistance. Abdominal subcutaneous AT biopsies were collected in 10 obese men with impaired glucose tolerance and 9 lean normal glucose tolerant age-matched controls. AT gene expression of NLRP3 inflammasome-related genes and markers of T cell populations, chemoattraction, macrophage infiltration and other aspects of inflammation were examined. Furthermore, we examined systemic adaptive immune activation and insulin sensitivity (hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp). CASPASE-1 mRNA and the proportion of T(h)1 transcripts (TBX21/CD3ɛ) were significantly higher in AT from obese compared with lean subjects. CASPASE-1 expression and a relative increase in T(h)1 transcripts in AT were strongly associated with insulin resistance and impairments in glucose homeostasis. Gene expression of NLRP3, CASPASE-1, CD3ɛ (pan T cells), TBX21 (T(h)1 cells) and RORC (T(h)17 cells) was positively, whereas GATA3 (T(h)2 cells) was inversely correlated with AT inflammation. Our data suggest that NLRP3 inflammasome activation and a T(h)1 shift in the T cell population in AT of obese subjects is related to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism, which may be explained by AT inflammatory processes.
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