Mitochondrial fragmentation in human macrophages attenuates palmitate-induced inflammatory responses

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2018 Apr;1863(4):433-446. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2018.01.009.


Macrophages in adipose tissue contribute to inflammation and the development of insulin resistance in obesity. Exposure of macrophages to saturated fatty acids alters cell metabolism and activates pro-inflammatory signaling. How fatty acids influence macrophage mitochondrial dynamics is unclear. We investigated the mechanism of palmitate-induced mitochondrial fragmentation and its impact on inflammatory responses in primary human macrophages. Fatty acids, such as palmitate, caused mitochondrial fragmentation in human macrophages. Increased mitochondrial fragmentation was also observed in peritoneal macrophages from hyperlipidemic apolipoprotein E knockout mice. Fatty acid-induced mitochondrial fragmentation was independent of the fatty acid chain saturation and required dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1). Mechanistically, mitochondrial fragmentation was regulated by incorporation of palmitate into mitochondrial phospholipids and their precursors. Palmitate-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential did not contribute to mitochondrial fragmentation. Macrophages treated with palmitate maintained intact mitochondrial respiration and ATP levels. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of DRP1 enhanced palmitate-induced mitochondrial ROS production, c-Jun phosphorylation, and inflammatory cytokine expression. Our results indicate that mitochondrial fragmentation is a protective mechanism attenuating inflammatory responses induced by palmitate in human macrophages.

Keywords: Fatty acid metabolism; Inflammation; Macrophages; Mitochondria; Palmitate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Dynamins
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Palmitates / toxicity*


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Palmitates
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • DNM1L protein, human
  • Dynamins