Nucleic acid cytokine responses in obese children and infants of obese mothers

Type Article

Journal Article


K. Brennan; B. D. O'Leary; D. Mc Laughlin; D. Kinlen; E. J. Molloy; D. Cody; S. Paran; F. M. McAuliffe; A. E. Hogan; S. L. Doyle

Year of publication










Almost a third of Irish children are now overweight and the country ranks 58th out of 200 countries for its proportion of overweight youths. With the rising obesity epidemic, and the impaired immune responses of this population, it is vital to understand the effects that obesity has on the immune system and to design future therapeutics, adjuvants and vaccines with overweight and obese populations in mind. Many current vaccines use adjuvants that have been found to be less effective at stimulating the immune response in children compared with adults and there is now substantial effort to design paediatric-focused adjuvants. Additionally, vaccine responses have been shown to be less effective in obese populations indicating that this is a particularly vulnerable population. We have recently identified cytosolic nucleic acids (CNAs), as novel candidate adjuvants for childhood vaccines. Here we investigated whether immune responses to these candidate adjuvants were adversely affected in infants born to overweight or obese mothers, and in overweight and obese children. Type I Interferon (IFN) and proinflammatory cytokines such as Tumor Necrosis Factor α (TNFα) are vital for driving innate and adaptive immune responses. We found that childhood obesity conferred no significant adverse effect on CNA-induced Type I IFN responses when compared with lean children. Similarly, Type I IFN responses were intact in the cord blood of babies delivered from overweight and obese mothers, when compared with lean mothers. There was also no significant impact of obesity on CNA-induced TNFα responses in children or from cord blood of infants born to overweight/obese mothers. In all cases, there was a tendency towards decreased production of innate cytokine Type I Interferon and TNFα, however there was no significant negative correlation. Interestingly, high maternal BMI showed weak and moderate positive correlation with IL-12p70 and IFNγ, respectively, in response to CNA stimulation. This study demonstrates that future adjuvants can be tailored for these populations through the use of activators of CNA sensors.