Background: Obesity is associated with a high circulating leptin level and severe 2009 pandemic influenza A virus subtype H1N1 (A[H1N1]pdm09) infection. The mechanism for severe lung injury in obese patients and the specific treatment strategy remain elusive.
Method: We studied the pathogenesis of A(H1N1)pdm09 infection in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity.
Results: Obese mice had significantly higher initial pulmonary viral titer and mortality after challenge with A(H1N1)pdm09, compared with age-matched lean mice. Compared with lean mice, obese mice had heightened proinflammatory cytokine and chemokine levels and more severe pulmonary inflammatory damage. Furthermore, obese mice had a higher preexisting serum leptin level but a lower preexisting adiponectin level. Recombinant mouse leptin increased the interleukin 6 (IL-6) messenger RNA expression in mouse single-lung-cell preparations, mouse macrophages, and mouse lung epithelial cell lines infected with A(H1N1)pdm09. Administration of anti-leptin antibody improved the survival of infected obese mice, with associated reductions in pulmonary levels of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and interleukin 1β but not the pulmonary viral titer.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that preexisting high levels of circulating leptin contribute to the development of severe lung injury by A(H1N1)pdm09 in mice with diet-induced obesity. The therapeutic strategy of leptin neutralization for the reduction of proinflammatory responses and pulmonary damage in obese patients warrants further investigations.