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Diabetologia. 2009 Jun;52(6):1152-63. doi: 10.1007/s00125-009-1267-1. Epub 2009 Jan 31.

The inflammatory receptor CD40 is expressed on human adipocytes: contribution to crosstalk between lymphocytes and adipocytes.

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  • 1Faculté de Médecine, Inserm U626, Marseille Cedex 5, France.



Obesity is associated with adipose tissue inflammation. The CD40 molecule, TNF receptor superfamily member 5 (CD40)/CD40 ligand (CD40L) pathway plays a role in the onset and maintenance of the inflammatory reaction, but has not been studied in human adipose tissue. Our aim was to examine CD40 expression by human adipocytes and its participation in adipose tissue inflammation.


CD40 expression was investigated in human whole adipose tissue and during adipocyte differentiation by real-time PCR, Western blot and immunohistochemistry. The CD40/CD40L pathway was studied using recombinant CD40L (rCD40L) in adipocyte culture and neutralising antibodies in lymphocyte/adipocyte co-culture.


CD40 mRNA levels in subcutaneous adipose tissue were higher in the adipocyte than in the stromal-vascular fraction. CD40 expression was upregulated during adipocyte differentiation. Addition of rCD40L to adipocytes induced mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation, stimulated inflammatory adipocytokine production, and decreased insulin-induced glucose transport in parallel with a downregulation of IRS1 and GLUT4 (also known as SCL2A4). rCD40L decreased the expression of lipogenic genes and increased lipolysis. CD40 mRNA levels were significantly higher in subcutaneous adipose tissue than in visceral adipose tissue of obese patients and were positively correlated with BMI, and with IL6 and leptin mRNA levels. Lymphocyte/adipocyte co-culture led to an upregulation of proinflammatory adipocytokines and a downregulation of leptin and adiponectin. Physical separation of the two cell types attenuated these effects, suggesting the involvement of a cell-cell contact. Blocking the CD40/CD40L interaction with neutralising antibodies reduced IL-6 secretion from adipocytes.


Adipocyte CD40 may contribute to obesity-related inflammation and insulin resistance. T lymphocytes regulate adipocytokine production through both the release of soluble factor(s) and heterotypic contact with adipocytes involving CD40.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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