Deficiency of T cell CD40L has minor beneficial effects on obesity-induced metabolic dysfunction

BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2019 Dec 17;7(1):e000829. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2019-000829. eCollection 2019.


Objective: Obesity-associated metabolic dysfunction increases the risk of multiple diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The importance of the co-stimulatory CD40-CD40L dyad in diet-induced obesity (DIO), with opposing phenotypes arising when either the receptor (aggravating) or the ligand (protective) is deleted, has been described previously. The functions of CD40 and CD40L are cell type dependent. As co-stimulation via T cell-mediated CD40L is essential for driving inflammation, we here investigate the role of T cell CD40L in DIO.

Research design and methods: CD4CreCD40Lfl/fl mice on a C57BL/6 background were generated and subjected to DIO by administration of 15 weeks of high fat diet (HFD).

Results: HFD-fed CD4CreCD40Lfl/fl mice had similar weight gain, adipocyte sizes, plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels as their wild-type (WT) counterparts. Insulin and glucose tolerance were comparable, although CD4CreCD40Lfl/fl mice did have a decreased plasma insulin concentration, suggesting a minor improvement of insulin resistance. Furthermore, although the degree of hepatosteatosis was similar in both genotypes, the gene expression of fatty acid synthase 1 and ATP-citrate lyase had decreased, whereas expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α had increased in livers of CD4CreCD40Lfl/fl mice, suggesting decreased hepatic lipid uptake in absence of T cell CD40L.Moreover, CD4CreCD40Lfl/fl mice displayed significantly lower numbers of effector memory CD4+ T cells and regulatory T cells in blood and lymphoid organs compared with WT. However, immune cell composition and inflammatory status of the adipose tissue was similar in CD4CreCD40Lfl/fl and WT mice.

Conclusions: T cell CD40L deficiency results in a minor improvement of insulin sensitivity and hepatic steatosis in DIO, despite the strong decrease in effector T cells and regulatory T cells in blood and lymphoid organs. Our data indicate that other CD40L-expressing cell types are more relevant in the pathogenesis of obesity-associated metabolic dysfunction.

Keywords: T cells; T lymphocyte activation; obesity; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / immunology*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Animals
  • CD40 Ligand / physiology*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism
  • Metabolic Diseases / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / pathology
  • Weight Gain


  • CD40 Ligand