Alterations in systemic levels of Th1, Th2, and Th17 cytokines in overweight adolescents and obese mice

Christian Jung, Michael Lichtenauer, Daniela Strodthoff, Holger Winkels, Bernhard Wernly, Christina Bürger, Uran Kamchybekov, Esther Lutgens, Hans Reiner Figulla, Norbert Gerdes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Obesity represents a major problem for patients and health care systems in most industrialized countries. A chronic inflammatory state in obese individuals leads to disease conditions associated with activation of cellular immune mechanisms. Here, we sought to investigate the role of Th1-, Th2-, and Th17-related cytokines in overweight adolescents and mice on a high-fat diet. Methods: Plasma samples were obtained from 79 male adolescents aged 13-17 years. Thirty-seven of them had a body mass index (BMI) above the 90th age-specific percentile. Th1, Th2, and Th17 cytokines were measured using Bio-Plex multiplex technology (Bio-Rad, Hercules, USA). In an experimental approach, mice were fed with high-fat (HFD) or normal chow for 15 weeks. Results: Interleukin (IL)-17 concentrations were significantly decreased in overweight adolescents compared to lean controls [99.8 ± 7.3 pg/mL standard error of the mean (SEM) vs 146.6 ± 11.5 pg/mL SEM P =.001]. Levels of IL-17 correlated significantly with anthropometrical parameters of obesity. A concordant response was found in mice consuming a HFD for 15 weeks compared to controls (861 ± 165 pg/mL SEM vs 1575 ± 187 pg/ml SEM, P =.0183). However, a biphasic response was evident for most Th1, Th2, and Th17 cytokines as levels initially increased within the first 5 weeks on HFD and showed a decline afterwards. Conclusions: In contrast to previous studies showing elevated levels of IL-17 in obese adults, we found a decreasing trend in overweight adolescents. This difference could possibly be related to the fact that disease conditions associated with obesity such as hypertension, vascular pathologies, diabetes, and a triggering of the Th1/Th17 axis were not yet present in overweight teenagers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)714-721
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Diabetes
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • BMI
  • Th1
  • Th17
  • Th2
  • adolescents
  • overweight
  • waist circumference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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