Insights into the role of macrophage migration inhibitory factor in obesity and insulin resistance

Type Article

Journal Article


O. M. Finucane; C. M. Reynolds; F. C. McGillicuddy; H. M. Roche

Year of publication



Proc Nutr Soc








High-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity has emerged as a state of chronic low-grade inflammation characterised by a progressive infiltration of immune cells, particularly macrophages, into obese adipose tissue. Adipose tissue macrophages (ATM) present immense plasticity. In early obesity, M2 anti-inflammatory macrophages acquire an M1 pro-inflammatory phenotype. Pro-inflammatory cytokines including TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-1β produced by M1 ATM exacerbate local inflammation promoting insulin resistance (IR), which consequently, can lead to type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). However, the triggers responsible for ATM recruitment and activation are not fully understood. Adipose tissue-derived chemokines are significant players in driving ATM recruitment during obesity. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), a chemokine-like inflammatory regulator, is enhanced during obesity and is directly associated with the degree of peripheral IR. This review focuses on the functional role of macrophages in obesity-induced IR and highlights the importance of the unique inflammatory cytokine MIF in propagating obesity-induced inflammation and IR. Given MIF chemotactic properties, MIF may be a primary candidate promoting ATM recruitment during obesity. Manipulating MIF inflammatory activities in obesity, using pharmacological agents or functional foods, may be therapeutically beneficial for the treatment and prevention of obesity-related metabolic diseases.