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Cell Metab. 2013 Apr 2;17(4):520-33. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.02.019.

Improved insulin sensitivity despite increased visceral adiposity in mice deficient for the immune cell transcription factor T-bet.

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Division of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences, King's College London, London SE1 9RT, UK.


Low-grade inflammation in fat is associated with insulin resistance, although the mechanisms are unclear. We report that mice deficient in the immune cell transcription factor T-bet have lower energy expenditure and increased visceral fat compared with wild-type mice, yet paradoxically are more insulin sensitive. This striking phenotype, present in young T-bet(-/-) mice, persisted with high-fat diet and increasing host age and was associated with altered immune cell numbers and cytokine secretion specifically in visceral adipose tissue. However, the favorable metabolic phenotype observed in T-bet-deficient hosts was lost in T-bet(-/-) mice also lacking adaptive immunity (T-bet(-/-)xRag2(-/-)), demonstrating that T-bet expression in the adaptive rather than the innate immune system impacts host glucose homeostasis. Indeed, adoptive transfer of T-bet-deficient, but not wild-type, CD4(+) T cells to Rag2(-/-) mice improved insulin sensitivity. Our results reveal a role for T-bet in metabolic physiology and obesity-associated insulin resistance.

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