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Diabetes. 2007 Aug;56(8):1960-8. Epub 2007 Jul 9.

Adipose tissue inflammation and increased ceramide content characterize subjects with high liver fat content independent of obesity.

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  • 1Atherosclerosis Research Unit, Department of Medicine, King Gustaf V. Research Institute, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

We sought to determine whether adipose tissue is inflamed in individuals with increased liver fat (LFAT) independently of obesity.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS:

A total of 20 nondiabetic, healthy, obese women were divided into normal and high LFAT groups based on their median LFAT level (2.3 +/- 0.3 vs. 14.4 +/- 2.9%). Surgical subcutaneous adipose tissue biopsies were studied using quantitative PCR, immunohistochemistry, and a lipidomics approach to search for putative mediators of insulin resistance and inflammation. The groups were matched for age and BMI. The high LFAT group had increased insulin (P = 0.0025) and lower HDL cholesterol (P = 0.02) concentrations.

RESULTS:

Expression levels of the macrophage marker CD68, the chemokines monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 and macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 were significantly increased, and those of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma and adiponectin decreased in the high LFAT group. CD68 expression correlated with the number of macrophages and crown-like structures (multiple macrophages fused around dead adipocytes). Concentrations of 154 lipid species in adipose tissue revealed several differences between the groups, with the most striking being increased concentrations of triacylglycerols, particularly long chain, and ceramides, specifically Cer(d18:1/24:1) (P = 0.01), in the high LFAT group. Expression of sphingomyelinases SMPD1 and SMPD3 were also significantly increased in the high compared with normal LFAT group.

CONCLUSIONS:

Adipose tissue is infiltrated with macrophages, and its content of long-chain triacylglycerols and ceramides is increased in subjects with increased LFAT compared with equally obese subjects with normal LFAT content. Ceramides or their metabolites could contribute to adverse effects of long-chain fatty acids on insulin resistance and inflammation.

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