Team of T Chavakis: Chung KJ et al. 2017. Nat Immunol 18:654. (LINK).
In obesity, inflammation of white adipose tissue (AT) is associated with diminished generation of beige adipocytes (‘beige adipogenesis’), a thermogenic and energy-dissipating function mediated by beige adipocytes that express the uncoupling protein UCP1. Here we delineated an inflammation-driven inhibitory mechanism of beige adipogenesis in obesity that required direct adhesive interactions between macrophages and adipocytes mediated by the integrin alpha4 and its counter-receptor VCAM-1, respectively; expression of the latter was upregulated in obesity. This adhesive interaction reciprocally and concomitantly modulated inflammatory activation of macrophages and downregulation of UCP1 expression dependent on the kinase Erk in adipocytes. Genetic or pharmacological inactivation of the integrin alpha4 in mice resulted in elevated expression of UCP1 and beige adipogenesis of subcutaneous AT in obesity. Our findings, established in both mouse systems and human systems, reveal a self-sustained cycle of inflammation-driven impairment of beige adipogenesis in obesity.