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Multinucleated giant cells in adipose tissue are specialized in adipocyte degradation

posted on 06.11.2020, 22:29 by Ada Admin, Julia Braune, Andreas Lindhorst, Janine Fröba, Constance Hobusch, Peter Kovacs, Matthias Blüher, Jens Eilers, Ingo Bechmann, Martin Gericke
Obesity is associated with a chronic low-grade inflammation in visceral adipose tissue (AT) characterized by an increasing number of adipose tissue macrophages (ATMs) and linked to type 2 diabetes. AT inflammation is histologically indicated by the formation of so-called crown-like structures (CLS), as accumulation of ATMs around dying adipocytes, and the occurrence of multi-nucleated giant cells (MGCs). However to date, the function of MGCs in obesity is unknown. Hence, the aim of this study was to characterize MGCs in AT and unravel the function of these cells.

We demonstrate that MGCs occur in obese patients and after 24 weeks of high fat diet (HFD) in mice, accompanying signs of AT inflammation and then represent ~3% of ATMs in mice. Mechanistically, we found evidence that adipocyte death triggers MGC formation. Most importantly, MGCs in obese AT have a higher capacity to phagocytose oversized particles, such as adipocytes, as shown by live-imaging of AT, 45 µm bead uptake ex vivo and a higher lipid content in vivo. Finally, we show that IL-4 treatment is sufficient to increase the number of MGCs in AT, whereas other factors maybe more important for endogenous MGC formation in vivo.


This work was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) – project number 209933838 – SFB 1052 (project B09 to MG and IB).