The fractalkine/Cx3CR1 system is implicated in the development of metabolic visceral adipose tissue inflammation in obesity

Brain Behav Immun. 2014 May;38:25-35. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2014.01.010. Epub 2014 Jan 21.


Diet-induced obesity and related peripheral and central inflammation are major risk factors for metabolic, neurological and psychiatric diseases. The chemokine fractalkine (Cx3CL1) and its receptor Cx3CR1 play a pivotal role in recruitment, infiltration and proinflammatory polarization of leukocytes and micoglial cells, however, the role of fractalkine signaling in the development of metabolic inflammation is not fully resolved. To address this issue, fractalkine receptor deficient (Cx3CR1 gfp/gfp) mice were exposed to normal or fat-enriched diet (FatED) for 10weeks and physiological-, metabolic- and immune parameters were compared to those animals in which the fractalkine signaling is maintained by the presence of one functioning allele (Cx3CR1 +/gfp). Mice with intact fractalkine signaling develop obesity characterized by increased epididymal white fat depots and mild glucose intolerance, recruit leukocytes into the visceral adipose tissue and display increased expression of subset of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines when exposed to fat-enriched diet. By contrast, Cx3CR1-deficient (gfp/gfp) mice gain significantly less weight on fat-enriched diet and have smaller amount of white adipose tissue (WAT) in the visceral compartment than heterozygote controls. Furthermore, Cx3CR1 gfp/gfp mice fed a fat-enriched diet do not develop glucose intolerance, recruit proportionally less number of gfp-positive cells and express significantly less MCP-1, IL-1α and TNFα in the WAT than control animals with fat-enriched diet induced obesity. Furthermore, heterozygote obese, but not fractalkine receptor deficient mice express high levels of anti-inflammatory IL-10 and arginase1 markers in the visceral fat. The effect of fat-enriched diet on cytokine expression pattern was specific for the WAT, as we did not detect significant elevation of interleukin-1, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and monocyte chemotacting protein (MCP-1) expression in the liver or in the hypothalamus in either genotype. These results highlight the importance of fractalkine signaling in recruitment and polarization of adipose tissue immune cells and identify fractalkine as a target to fight obesity-induced inflammatory complications.

Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; HSD1; High fat diet; Hypothalamus; IL-1α and β; IL-6; Interleukin-1; Liver; MCP-1; TNFα; White adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Chemokine CX3CL1 / metabolism*
  • Diet, High-Fat*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism


  • Chemokine CX3CL1
  • Cx3cl1 protein, mouse