Short-term exposure to air pollution (PM 2.5) induces hypothalamic inflammation, and long-term leads to leptin resistance and obesity via Tlr4/Ikbke in mice

Sci Rep. 2020 Jun 23;10(1):10160. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-67040-3.


A previous study demonstrated that a high-fat diet (HFD), administered for one-three-days, induces hypothalamic inflammation before obesity's established, and the long term affects leptin signaling/action due to inflammation. We investigate whether exposure to particulate matter of a diameter of ≤2.5 μm (PM2.5) in mice fed with a chow diet leads to similar metabolic effects caused by high-fat feeding. Compared to the filtered air group (FA), one-day-exposure-PM2.5 did not affect adiposity. However, five-days-exposure-PM2.5 increased hypothalamic microglia density, toll-like-receptor-4 (Tlr4), and the inhibitor-NF-kappa-B-kinase-epsilon (Ikbke) expression. Concurrently, fat mass, food intake (FI), and ucp1 expression in brown adipose tissue were also increased. Besides, decreased hypothalamic STAT3-phosphorylation and Pomc expression were found after twelve-weeks-exposure-PM2.5. These were accompanied by increased FI and lower energy expenditure (EE), leading to obesity, along with increased leptin and insulin levels and HOMA. Mechanistically, the deletion of Tlr4 or knockdown of the Ikbke gene in the hypothalamus was sufficient to reverse the metabolic outcomes of twelve-weeks-exposure-PM2.5. These data demonstrated that short-term exposure-PM2.5 increases hypothalamic inflammation, similar to a HFD. Long-term exposure-PM2.5 is even worse, leading to leptin resistance, hyperphagia, and decreased EE. These effects are most likely due to chronic hypothalamic inflammation, which is regulated by Tlr4 and Ikbke signaling.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Brown / metabolism
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Gene Expression
  • Hyperphagia / etiology
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamus / pathology*
  • I-kappa B Kinase / genetics
  • I-kappa B Kinase / metabolism
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / pathology*
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Time Factors
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / genetics
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Leptin
  • Particulate Matter
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • I-kappa B Kinase
  • Ikbke protein, mouse