A Novel Subset of CD95+ Pro-Inflammatory Macrophages Overcome miR155 Deficiency and May Serve as a Switch From Metabolically Healthy Obesity to Metabolically Unhealthy Obesity

Candice Johnson, Charles Drummer IV, Huimin Shan, Ying Shao, Yu Sun, Yifan Lu, Fatma Saaoud, Keman Xu, Gayani Nanayakkara, Pu Fang, Zsolt Bagi, Xiaohua Jiang, Eric T. Choi, Hong Wang, Xiaofeng Yang

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Metabolically healthy obesity (MHO) accounts for roughly 35% of all obese patients. There is no clear consensus that has been reached on whether MHO is a stable condition or merely a transitory period between metabolically healthy lean and metabolically unhealthy obesity (MUO). Additionally, the mechanisms underlying MHO and any transition to MUO are not clear. Macrophages are the most common immune cells in adipose tissues and have a significant presence in atherosclerosis. Fas (or CD95), which is highly expressed on macrophages, is classically recognized as a pro-apoptotic cell surface receptor. However, Fas also plays a significant role as a pro-inflammatory molecule. Previously, we established a mouse model (ApoE-/-/miR155-/-; DKO mouse) of MHO, based on the criteria of not having metabolic syndrome (MetS) and insulin resistance (IR). In our current study, we hypothesized that MHO is a transition phase toward MUO, and that inflammation driven by our newly classified CD95+CD86- macrophages is a novel mechanism for this transition. We found that, with extended (24 weeks) high-fat diet feeding (HFD), MHO mice became MUO, shown by increased atherosclerosis. Mechanistically, we found the following: 1) at the MHO stage, DKO mice exhibited increased pro-inflammatory markers in adipose tissue, including CD95, and serum; 2) total adipose tissue macrophages (ATMs) increased; 3) CD95+CD86- subset of ATMs also increased; and 4) human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs) were activated (as determined by upregulated ICAM1 expression) when incubated with conditioned media from CD95+-containing DKO ATMs and human peripheral blood mononuclear cells-derived macrophages in comparison to respective controls. These results suggest that extended HFD in MHO mice promotes vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis via increasing CD95+ pro-inflammatory ATMs. In conclusion, we have identified a novel molecular mechanism underlying MHO transition to MUO with HFD. We have also found a previously unappreciated role of CD95+ macrophages as a potentially novel subset that may be utilized to assess pro-inflammatory characteristics of macrophages, specifically in adipose tissue in the absence of pro-inflammatory miR-155. These findings have provided novel insights on MHO transition to MUO and new therapeutic targets for the future treatment of MUO, MetS, other obese diseases, and type II diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number619951
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Jan 7 2021


  • CD95 (Fas)
  • Macrophage
  • adipose tissue
  • atherosclerosis
  • metabolic
  • metabolic disease
  • miR-155
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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