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Abstract

Obesity is regarded as a pro-inflammatory state. It is associated with low circulating levels of the adipokine, adiponectin, which is considered to be an anti-inflammatory. However, adiponectin knockout mice do not consistently demonstrate pro-inflammatory phenotypes, suggesting more complexity in the in vivo immunomodulatory effects of adiponectin than originally anticipated. Moreover, adiponectin exerts pro-inflammatory effects in some experimental systems. This contradiction has been resolved by hypothesizing that adiponectin induces tolerance to inflammatory stimuli, notably Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands. We noticed that this effect resembled lipopolysaccharide (LPS) tolerance and therefore tested adiponectin from a variety of sources for LPS contamination. All adiponectin tested carried low levels of LPS in the range of 1–30 pg/μg of adiponectin, sufficient to produce final LPS concentrations in the pg/ml range under experimental conditions. We found that induction of tolerance to TLR ligands by adiponectin in human monocyte-derived macrophages could be reproduced by such LPS concentrations. Moreover, the LPS antagonist, polymixin B, substantially inhibited induction of tolerance by adiponectin. Furthermore, polymixin B and a naturally occurring antagonist LPS were able to partially attenuate induction of tumour necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 in human monocyte-derived macrophages by adiponectin. Polymixin B also inhibited nuclear factor-κB and mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling elicited by adiponectin. We therefore propose that some of adiponectin’s immunomodulatory effects, in particular, its TLR-tolerising actions in human monocyte-derived macrophages, may be confounded by induction of tolerance by contaminating LPS.