Obesity Expands a Distinct Population of T Cells in Adipose Tissue and Increases Vulnerability to Infection

Cell Rep. 2019 Apr 9;27(2):514-524.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.03.030.


Obesity in humans is associated with poorer health outcomes after infections compared with non-obese individuals. Here, we examined the effects of white adipose tissue and obesity on T cell responses to viral infection in mice. We show that lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) grows to high titer in adipose tissue. Virus-specific T cells enter the adipose tissue to resolve infection but then remain as a memory population distinct from memory T cells in lymphoid tissues. Memory T cells in adipose tissue are abundant in lean mice, and diet-induced obesity further increases memory T cell number in adipose tissue and spleen. Upon re-challenge infection, memory T cells rapidly cause severe pathogenesis, leading to increases in lipase levels, calcification of adipose tissue, pancreatitis, and reduced survival in obese mice but not lean mice. Thus, obesity leads to a unique form of viral pathogenesis involving memory T cell-dependent adipocyte destruction and damage to other tissues.

Keywords: LCMV; T cell memory; Trm; obesity; pancreatitis; tissue-resident memory T cells; white adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*