Accelerated phosphatidylcholine turnover in macrophages promotes adipose tissue inflammation in obesity

Elife. 2019 Aug 16;8:e47990. doi: 10.7554/eLife.47990.


White adipose tissue (WAT) inflammation contributes to the development of insulin resistance in obesity. While the role of adipose tissue macrophage (ATM) pro-inflammatory signalling in the development of insulin resistance has been established, it is less clear how WAT inflammation is initiated. Here, we show that ATMs isolated from obese mice and humans exhibit markers of increased rate of de novo phosphatidylcholine (PC) biosynthesis. Macrophage-specific knockout of phosphocholine cytidylyltransferase A (CCTα), the rate-limiting enzyme of de novo PC biosynthesis pathway, alleviated obesity-induced WAT inflammation and insulin resistance. Mechanistically, CCTα-deficient macrophages showed reduced ER stress and inflammation in response to palmitate. Surprisingly, this was not due to lower exogenous palmitate incorporation into cellular PCs. Instead, CCTα-null macrophages had lower membrane PC turnover, leading to elevated membrane polyunsaturated fatty acid levels that negated the pro-inflammatory effects of palmitate. Our results reveal a causal link between obesity-associated increase in de novo PC synthesis, accelerated PC turnover and pro-inflammatory activation of ATMs.

Keywords: ER stress; adipose tissue; cell biology; fatty acid; human; human biology; immunometabolism; macrophage; medicine; membrane lipid; mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Choline-Phosphate Cytidylyltransferase / deficiency
  • Choline-Phosphate Cytidylyltransferase / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Deletion
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Mice, Obese
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / metabolism*


  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Choline-Phosphate Cytidylyltransferase

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE36669

Grant support