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While obesity and associated metabolic complications are linked to inflammation of white adipose tissue (WAT), the causal factors remain unclear. We hypothesized that the local metabolic environment could be an important determinant. To this end, we compared metabolites released from WAT of 81 obese and non-obese women. This identified glutamine to be downregulated in obesity and inversely associated with a pernicious WAT phenotype. Glutamine administration in vitro and in vivo attenuated both pro-inflammatory gene and protein levels in adipocytes and WAT and macrophage infiltration in WAT. Metabolomic and bioenergetic analyses in human adipocytes suggested that glutamine attenuated glycolysis and reduced uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) levels. UDP-GlcNAc is the substrate for the post-translational modification O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) mediated by the enzyme O-GlcNAc transferase. Functional studies in human adipocytes established a mechanistic link between reduced glutamine, O-GlcNAcylation of nuclear proteins, and a pro-inflammatory transcriptional response. Altogether, glutamine metabolism is linked to WAT inflammation in obesity.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Metab

Publication Date



adipocyte, adipokine, epigenetics, inflammation, leukocyte, macrophage, metabolomics, obesity