Adipose tissue as an immunological organ

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Mar;23(3):512-8. doi: 10.1002/oby.21003. Epub 2015 Jan 22.


Objective: This review will focus on the immunological aspects of adipose tissue and its potential role in development of chronic inflammation that instigates obesity-associated comorbidities.

Methods: The review used PubMed searches of current literature to examine adipose tissue leukocytosis.

Results and conclusions: The adipose tissue of obese subjects becomes inflamed and contributes to the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Numerous immune cells including B cells, T cells, macrophages, and neutrophils have been identified in adipose tissue, and obesity influences both the quantity and the nature of immune cell subtypes, which emerges as an active immunological organ capable of modifying whole-body metabolism through paracrine and endocrine mechanisms. Adipose tissue is a large immunologically active organ during obesity and displays hallmarks of both and innate and adaptive immune response. Despite the presence of hematopoietic lineage cells in adipose tissue, it is unclear whether the adipose compartment has a direct role in immune surveillance or host defense. Understanding the interactions between leukocytes and adipocytes may reveal the clinically relevant pathways that control adipose tissue inflammation and is likely to reveal mechanisms by which obesity contributes to increased susceptibility to both metabolic and certain infectious diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Adipose Tissue / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / immunology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Obesity / immunology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology