Single-cell sequencing of human white adipose tissue identifies new cell states in health and obesity

Nat Immunol. 2021 May;22(5):639-653. doi: 10.1038/s41590-021-00922-4. Epub 2021 Apr 27.


White adipose tissue (WAT) is an essential regulator of energy storage and systemic metabolic homeostasis. Regulatory networks consisting of immune and structural cells are necessary to maintain WAT metabolism, which can become impaired during obesity in mammals. Using single-cell transcriptomics and flow cytometry, we unveil a large-scale comprehensive cellular census of the stromal vascular fraction of healthy lean and obese human WAT. We report new subsets and developmental trajectories of adipose-resident innate lymphoid cells, dendritic cells and monocyte-derived macrophage populations that accumulate in obese WAT. Analysis of cell-cell ligand-receptor interactions and obesity-enriched signaling pathways revealed a switch from immunoregulatory mechanisms in lean WAT to inflammatory networks in obese WAT. These results provide a detailed and unbiased cellular landscape of homeostatic and inflammatory circuits in healthy human WAT.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdominoplasty
  • Adipocytes / immunology
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Cell Communication / immunology
  • Cell Line
  • Dendritic Cells, Follicular / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells, Follicular / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Obesity / immunology*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Obesity / surgery
  • RNA-Seq
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / immunology*
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / pathology
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / surgery