Changes in human dendritic cell number and function in severe obesity may contribute to increased susceptibility to viral infection

Type Article

Journal Article


D. O'Shea; M. Corrigan; M. R. Dunne; R. Jackson; C. Woods; G. Gaoatswe; P. N. Moynagh; J. O'Connell; A. E. Hogan

Year of publication



Int J Obes (Lond)








Dendritic cells (DCs) are key immune sentinels linking the innate and adaptive immune systems. DCs recognise danger signals and initiate T-cell tolerance, memory and polarisation. They are critical cells in responding to a viral illness. Obese individuals have been shown to have an impaired response to vaccinations against virally mediated conditions and to have an increased susceptibility to multi-organ failure in response to viral illness. We investigated if DCs are altered in an obese cohort (mean body mass index 51.7±7.3 kg m(-2)), ultimately resulting in differential T-cell responses. Circulating DCs were found to be significantly decreased in the obese compared with the lean cohort (0.82% vs 2.53%). Following Toll-like receptor stimulation, compared with lean controls, DCs generated from the obese cohort upregulated significantly less CD83 (40% vs 17% mean fluorescence intensity), a molecule implicated in the elicitation of T-cell responses, particularly viral responses. Obese DCs produced twofold more of the immunosuppressive cytokine interleukin (IL)-10 than lean controls, and in turn stimulated fourfold more IL-4-production from allogenic naive T cells. We conclude that obesity negatively impacts the ability of DCs to mature and elicit appropriate T-cell responses to a general stimulus. This may contribute to the increased susceptibility to viral infection observed in severe obesity.