Background: Our previous studies in mice showed that high fat diet leads to a pro-inflammatory phenotype of intestinal macrophages. Colon-specific depletion of intestinal macrophages led to improved glycemic control, suggesting a causal link between intestinal macrophages and glycemia. The aim of the current study was to validate our findings in human disease by assessing human gut biopsies and circulating blood monocytes from lean and obese individuals.

Research Design and Method: Peripheral blood monocytes were isolated using a Ficoll gradient and characterized by flow cytometry as classical (CD14++CD16-), intermediate (CD14++CD16+) and non-classical (CD14+CD16++) monocytes. Intestinal macrophages of the stomach, duodenum and colon were isolated from biopsies of lean (BMI <27 kg/m2) or obese (BMI >32 kg/m2) individuals undergoing colonoscopy or gastroscopy. Macrophages were characterized as CD14high or CD14low and further subdivided by HLA-DR, CD163 and CD209 into pro-inflammatory P1, P2, intermediate P3 and resident, anti-inflammatory subpopulations P4, P5.

Results: Depending on the anatomical location, the composition of intestinal macrophages varied: In the stomach of lean subjects, the ratio of CD14high/CD14low macrophages was 80/20%, while the colon comprised more resident, anti-inflammatory macrophages (CD14high/CD14low: 60/40%). Consistent with our results in mice, we detected an increase in the CD14high pro-inflammatory macrophage subpopulation P2 in obese individuals (Corpus: 1.55±0.61-fold, Duodenum: 1.79±0.45-fold, Colon transversum: 1.71±0.72-fold). Interestingly, also human CD14high intermediate blood monocytes were increased in obese patients.

Conclusion: Similar to our mouse data, pro-inflammatory intestinal macrophages are increased in gut biopsies of obese subjects. Higher CD14high blood monocytes suggest enhanced recruitment of monocytes to the gut as the prevailing mechanism.


T.V. Rohm: None. R. Fuchs: None. Z. Baumann: None. L. Keller: None. R. Schneider: None. D. Labes: None. C. Cavelti-Weder: None.


University of Basel

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