Sex differences in macrophage responses to obesity-mediated changes determine migratory and inflammatory traits

Kuan Hui Ethan Chen, Nancy M. Lainez, Djurdjica Coss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The mechanisms whereby obesity differentially affects males and females are unclear. Because macrophages are functionally the most important cells in obesity-induced inflammation, we sought to determine reasons for male-specific propensity in macrophage migration. We previously determined that male mice fed a high-fat diet exhibit macrophage infiltration into the hypothalamus, whereas females were protected irrespective of ovarian estrogen, in this study, we show that males accumulate more macrophages in adipose tissues that are also more inflammatory. Using bone marrow cells or macrophages differentiated in vitro from male and female mice fed control or high-fat diet, we demonstrated that macrophages derived from male mice are intrinsically more migratory. We determined that males have higher levels of leptin in serum and adipose tissue. Serum CCL2 levels, however, are the same in males and females, although they are increased in obese mice compared with lean mice of both sexes. Leptin receptor and free fatty acid (FFA) receptor, GPR120, are upregulated only in macrophages derived from male mice when cultured in the presence of FFA to mimic hyperlipidemia of obesity. Unless previously stimulated with LPS, CCL2 did not cause migration of macrophages. Leptin, however, elicited migration of macrophages from both sexes. Macrophages from male mice maintained migratory capacity when cultured with FFA, whereas female macrophages failed to migrate. Therefore, both hyperlipidemia and hyperleptinemia contribute to male macrophage-specific migration because increased FFA induce leptin receptors, whereas higher leptin causes migration. Our results may explain sex differences in obesity-mediated disorders caused by macrophage infiltration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-153
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


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