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PLoS One. 2010 Jul 29;5(7):e11861. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011861.

Transcriptional profiles of leukocyte populations provide a tool for interpreting gene expression patterns associated with high fat diet in mice.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.



Microarray experiments in mice have shown that high fat diet can lead to elevated expression of genes that are disproportionately associated with immune functions. These effects of high fat (atherogenic) diet may be due to infiltration of tissues by leukocytes in coordination with inflammatory processes.


The Novartis strain-diet-sex microarray database (GSE10493) was used to evaluate the hepatic effects of high fat diet (4 weeks) in 12 mouse strains and both genders. We develop and apply an algorithm that identifies "signature transcripts" for many different leukocyte populations (e.g., T cells, B cells, macrophages) and uses this information to derive an in silico "inflammation profile". Inflammation profiles highlighted monocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells as key drivers of gene expression patterns associated with high fat diet in liver. In some strains (e.g., NZB/BINJ, B6), we estimate that 50-60% of transcripts elevated by high fat diet might be due to hepatic infiltration by these cell types. Interestingly, DBA mice appeared to exhibit resistance to localized hepatic inflammation associated with atherogenic diet. A common characteristic of infiltrating cell populations was elevated expression of genes encoding components of the toll-like receptor signaling pathway (e.g., Irf5 and Myd88).


High fat diet promotes infiltration of hepatic tissue by leukocytes, leading to elevated expression of immune-associated transcripts. The intensity of this effect is genetically controlled and sensitive to both strain and gender. The algorithm developed in this paper provides a framework for computational analysis of tissue remodeling processes and can be usefully applied to any in vivo setting in which inflammatory processes play a prominent role.

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