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Immunotargets Ther. 2016 May 23;5:47-56. doi: 10.2147/ITT.S73223. eCollection 2016.

The role of adipokines in chronic inflammation.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Adipose tissue has traditionally been defined as connective tissue that stores excess calories in the form of triacylglycerol. However, the physiologic functions attributed to adipose tissue are expanding, and it is now well established that adipose tissue is an endocrine gland. Among the endocrine factors elaborated by adipose tissue are the adipokines; hormones, similar in structure to cytokines, produced by adipose tissue in response to changes in adipocyte triacylglycerol storage and local and systemic inflammation. They inform the host regarding long-term energy storage and have a profound influence on reproductive function, blood pressure regulation, energy homeostasis, the immune response, and many other physiologic processes. The adipokines possess pro- and anti-inflammatory properties and play a critical role in integrating systemic metabolism with immune function. In calorie restriction and starvation, proinflammatory adipokines decline and anti-inflammatory adipokines increase, which informs the host of energy deficits and contributes to the suppression of immune function. In individuals with normal metabolic status, there is a balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory adipokines. This balance shifts to favor proinflammatory mediators as adipose tissue expands during the development of obesity. As a consequence, the proinflammatory status of adipose tissue contributes to a chronic low-grade state of inflammation and metabolic disorders associated with obesity. These disturbances are associated with an increased risk of metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many other pathological conditions. This review focuses on the impact of energy homeostasis on the adipokines in immune function.


adipose tissue; calorie restriction; chronic low-grade inflammation; infection; macrophage; obesity; type 2 diabetes

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