Immune checkpoint protein VSIG4 as a biomarker of aging in murine adipose tissue

Aging Cell. 2020 Oct;19(10):e13219. doi: 10.1111/acel.13219. Epub 2020 Aug 28.


Adipose tissue is recognized as a major source of systemic inflammation with age, driving age-related tissue dysfunction and pathogenesis. Macrophages (Mφ) are central to these changes yet adipose tissue Mφ (ATMs) from aged mice remain poorly characterized. To identify biomarkers underlying changes in aged adipose tissue, we performed an unbiased RNA-seq analysis of ATMs from young (8-week-old) and healthy aged (80-week-old) mice. One of the genes identified, V-set immunoglobulin-domain-containing 4 (VSIG4/CRIg), encodes a Mφ-associated complement receptor and B7 family-related immune checkpoint protein. Here, we demonstrate that Vsig4 expression is highly upregulated with age in perigonadal white adipose tissue (gWAT) in two mouse strains (inbred C57BL/6J and outbred NIH Swiss) independent of gender. The accumulation of VSIG4 was mainly attributed to a fourfold increase in the proportion of VSIG4+ ATMs (13%-52%). In a longitudinal study, VSIG4 expression in gWAT showed a strong correlation with age within a cohort of male and female mice and correlated strongly with physiological frailty index (PFI, a multi-parameter assessment of health) in male mice. Our results indicate that VSIG4 is a novel biomarker of aged murine ATMs. VSIG4 expression was also found to be elevated in other aging tissues (e.g., thymus) and was strongly induced in tumor-adjacent stroma in cases of spontaneous and xenograft lung cancer models. VSIG4 expression was recently associated with cancer and several inflammatory diseases with diagnostic and prognostic potential in both mice and humans. Further investigation is required to determine whether VSIG4-positive Mφ contribute to immunosenescence and/or systemic age-related deficits.

Keywords: VSIG4; adipose tissue; aging; frailty index; immune checkpoint; inflammation; macrophage; mouse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism*
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Female
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, Complement / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Receptors, Complement
  • VSIG4 protein, mouse