Mucosal-associated invariant T cells are associated with insulin resistance in childhood obesity, and disrupt insulin signalling via IL-17

Type Article

Journal Article


R. Bergin; D. Kinlen; N. Kedia-Mehta; E. Hayes; F. C. Cassidy; D. Cody; D. O'Shea; A. E. Hogan

Year of publication








AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Mucosal-associated invariant T cells (MAIT cells) are an abundant population of innate T cells. When activated, MAIT cells rapidly produce a range of cytokines, including IFNγ, TNF-α and IL-17. Several studies have implicated MAIT cells in the development of metabolic dysfunction, but the mechanisms through which this occurs are not fully understood. We hypothesised that MAIT cells are associated with insulin resistance in children with obesity, and affect insulin signalling through their production of IL-17. METHODS: In a cross-sectional observational study, we investigated MAIT cell cytokine profiles in a cohort of 30 children with obesity and 30 healthy control participants, of similar age, using flow cytometry. We then used a cell-based model to determine the direct effect of MAIT cells and IL-17 on insulin signalling and glucose uptake. RESULTS: Children with obesity display increased MAIT cell frequencies (2.2% vs 2.8%, p=0.047), and, once activated, these produced elevated levels of both TNF-α (39% vs 28%, p=0.03) and IL-17 (1.25% vs 0.5%, p=0.008). The IL-17-producing MAIT cells were associated with an elevated HOMA-IR (r=0.65, p=0.001). The MAIT cell secretome from adults with obesity resulted in reduced glucose uptake when compared with the secretome from healthy adult control (1.31 vs 0.96, p=0.0002), a defect that could be blocked by neutralising IL-17. Finally, we demonstrated that recombinant IL-17 blocked insulin-mediated glucose uptake via inhibition of phosphorylated Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATIONS: Collectively, these studies provide further support for the role of MAIT cells in the development of metabolic dysfunction, and suggest that an IL-17-mediated effect on intracellular insulin signalling is responsible.