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Adipose type I interferon signalling protects against metabolic dysfunction
  1. Verena Wieser1,
  2. Timon Erik Adolph1,
  3. Christoph Grander1,
  4. Felix Grabherr1,
  5. Barbara Enrich1,
  6. Patrizia Moser2,
  7. Alexander Rupert Moschen1,
  8. Susanne Kaser1,
  9. Herbert Tilg1
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine I, Gastroenterology, Endocrinology & Metabolism, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  2. 2Institute of Pathology, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  1. Correspondence to Professor Herbert Tilg, Department of Internal Medicine I, Gastroenterology, Endocrinology & Metabolism, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020, Austria; Herbert.Tilg{at}


Objective Low-grade chronic inflammation emerges as a potent driver of insulin resistance and glucose dysregulation in obesity and associated non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The liver, subcutaneous fat and the immune system participate in disturbances of metabolism. Type I interferon (IFN) signalling initiated by innate and adaptive immunity modulates inflammatory responses consequent to infection. However, little is known about the role of type I IFN signalling in metabolic diseases and the development of NAFLD.

Design We determined the impact of type I IFN signalling by tissue-specific deletion of interferon (α and β) receptor 1 (Ifnar1) in hepatocytes (Ifnar1Δhep), adipocytes (Ifnar1Δat), intestinal epithelial cells (Ifnar1ΔIEC) or myelocytes (Ifnar1Δmyel) on glucose metabolism, obesity and hepatic disease in mice exposed to a high-fat or methionine-choline-deficient (MCD) diet. Furthermore, we investigated the expression of type I IFN-regulated genes in patients with obesity undergoing laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB).

Results Long chain fatty acids induce type I IFN responses in murine hepatocytes and macrophages and exposure to a high-fat diet elicited type I IFN-regulated gene expression in the liver of wild-type mice. Hepatocyte-specific, but not adipose tissue-specific deletion of Ifnar1 worsened steatosis and inflammation induced by the MCD diet. In contrast, adipose-specific, but not hepatocyte-specific deletion of Ifnar1 deteriorated metabolic dysregulation induced by a high-fat diet, indicated by increased weight gain, insulin resistance and an impaired glucose tolerance. Abrogated type I IFN signalling in myeloid or intestinal epithelial cells did not modulate susceptibility to metabolic or hepatic disease. Improved metabolic control in patients with obesity after LAGB was associated with increased expression of type I IFN-regulated genes in subcutaneous adipose tissue and liver.

Conclusions Our study implicates a role for adipose and hepatocyte type I IFN signalling in diet-induced metabolic dysregulation and hepatic disease. Further studies on type I IFN signalling in metabolic diseases are warranted.

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  • VW and TEA contributed equally.

  • Contributors VW and TEA designed, performed and analysed most experiments and prepared the manuscript, together with CG, FG and BE helped with experimentation. PM performed histology analysis and SK and ARM provided expertise. HT coordinated the project.

  • Funding This project was supported by the excellence initiative (Competence Centers for Excellent Technologies—COMET) of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG: Research Center of Excellence in Vascular Ageing Tyrol, VASCage (K-Project Nr. 843536) funded by the BMVIT, BMWFW, the Wirtschaftsagentur Wien and the Standortagentur Tirol (to HT) and by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) P 29379-B28 and the Tyrolian Science Fund (TWF) 0404/1812 (both to TEA).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics Committee Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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