Altered Distribution and Increased IL-17 Production by Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells in Adult and Childhood Obesity

J Immunol. 2015 Jun 15;194(12):5775-80. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1402945. Epub 2015 May 15.


Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are innate MHC-unrestricted cells that regulate inflammatory responses through the rapid production of cytokines. In this article, we show that circulating MAIT cells are depleted in obese adults, and depletion is associated with diabetic status. Circulating MAIT cells more frequently produced IL-17 upon stimulation ex vivo, a cytokine implicated in insulin resistance. MAIT cells were enriched in adipose tissue (AT) compared with blood. AT MAIT cells, but not circulating MAIT cells, were capable of producing IL-10. In AT from obese subjects, MAIT cells were depleted, were less likely to produce IL-10, and more frequently produced IL-17. Finally, we show that IL-17(+) MAIT cells are also increased in childhood obesity, and altered MAIT cell frequencies in obese children are positively associated with insulin resistance. These data indicate that MAIT cells are enriched in human AT and display an IL-17(+) phenotype in both obese adults and children, correlating with levels of insulin resistance. The alterations in MAIT cells may be contributing to obesity-related sterile inflammation and insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-17 / biosynthesis*
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology*
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism
  • Obesity / immunology*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-17