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Keywords:

  • adipose tissue ;
  • leptin ;
  • T cells ;
  • Treg ;
  • metabolism ;
  • diabetes

Summary

The study of how different intracellular metabolic signaling pathways impact the control of self-immune tolerance and how metabolic dysregulation in overweight, obesity, and diabetes is able to alter self-immune tolerance are topics of intensive investigation. Recent evidence suggests that metabolic and autoimmune diseases, both characterized by chronic inflammation and an altered self-immune tolerance, are more common in affluent countries. The reasons for such phenomena are still not completely understood, but the ‘metabolic pressure’ induced by nutritional overload, typical of more developed countries, seems to play a role. In this context, the discovery of the adipose tissue-derived hormone leptin has shed fundamental insights on how these processes might occur. We believe that there is a strong relationship among leptin, metabolic state, and immunological self-tolerance. We hypothesize that the leptin-induced metabolic pressure sets the basis for an exaggerated immuno-inflammatory response to altered self or non-self, leading to chronic inflammation, metabolic dysregulation, and autoimmunity in subjects with risk factors (i.e. genetic predisposition, environment, sex, infectious agents, etc). Capitalizing on our joint effort and trans-disciplinary expertise in metabolism, self-tolerance, and autoimmune diseases, this review highlights key questions on the basic mechanisms governing immune tolerance in the context of metabolic and autoimmune disease susceptibility.