Obesity induced by a high-fat diet is associated with increased immune cell entry into the central nervous system

Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Jan;35:33-42. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.06.007. Epub 2013 Jul 4.


Obesity is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation in peripheral tissues caused, in part, by the recruitment of inflammatory monocytes into adipose tissue. Studies in rodent models have also shown increased inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) during obesity. The goal of this study was to determine whether obesity is associated with recruitment of peripheral immune cells into the CNS. To do this we used a bone marrow chimerism model to track the entry of green-fluorescent protein (GFP) labeled peripheral immune cells into the CNS. Flow cytometry was used to quantify the number of GFP(+) immune cells recruited into the CNS of mice fed a high-fat diet compared to standard chow fed controls. High-fat feeding resulted in obesity associated with a 30% increase in the number of GFP(+) cells in the CNS compared to control mice. Greater than 80% of the GFP(+) cells recruited to the CNS were also CD45(+) CD11b(+) indicating that the GFP(+) cells displayed characteristics of microglia/macrophages. Immunohistochemistry further confirmed the increase in GFP(+) cells in the CNS of the high-fat fed group and also indicated that 93% of the recruited cells were found in the parenchyma and had a stellate morphology. These findings indicate that peripheral immune cells can be recruited to the CNS in obesity and may contribute to the inflammatory response.

Keywords: Bone marrow chimera; High-fat diet; Inflammation; Microglia; Neuroinflammation; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / immunology*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Monocytes / metabolism*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation*
  • Obesity / immunology*