Obesity decreases B cell responses in young and elderly individuals

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Mar;24(3):615-25. doi: 10.1002/oby.21383. Epub 2016 Feb 9.


Objective: To evaluate the effects of obesity-associated inflammation on influenza vaccine responses.

Methods: In young and elderly individuals, both lean and with obesity, antibody responses to influenza vaccination were measured.

Results: A decrease in in vivo vaccine responses, circulating switched memory, and transitional B cells and an increase in pro-inflammatory late/exhausted memory B cells were found. In vitro B cell function was measured by activation-induced cytidine deaminase and E47, markers of optimal antibody responses. Moreover, IL-6 production was increased, whereas IL-10 production was decreased in cultures of B cells from individuals with obesity. Markers of immune activation (TNF-α, TLR4, micro-RNAs) in unstimulated B cells were also found increased and were negatively correlated with B cell function. In order to reveal potential mechanisms, we stimulated B cells from lean individuals in vitro with leptin, the adipokine increased in obesity. Leptin increased phospho-STAT3, crucial for TNF-α production, and decreased phospho-AMPK, the energy sensing enzyme upstream of phospho-p38 MAPK and E47. Leptin-induced phospho-STAT3 and phospho-AMPK levels were similar to those in B cells from individuals with obesity.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that leptin can be responsible for decreased B cell function in obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology*
  • Influenza, Human / immunology*
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Male
  • Obesity / immunology*
  • Young Adult


  • Influenza Vaccines