, Volume 49, Issue 10, pp 2402-2411
Date: 29 Aug 2006

Protection from inflammatory disease in insulin resistance: the role of mannan-binding lectin



Decreased sensing of the innate immune system may lead to chronic activation of the inflammatory cascade. We hypothesised that mannan-binding lectin (MBL) deficiency may confer risk of obesity and insulin resistance.

Materials and methods

We performed a cross-sectional study of MBL protein concentration (n=434) and MBL2 gene mutations (exon 1) (n=759) in association with obesity, markers of inflammation and insulin action (euglycaemic clamp, n=113), and a longitudinal study of MBL protein before and after weight loss in obese patients (n=10). We also studied the effects of MBL in vitro in muscle cells and circulating MBL-A (mouse equivalent of human MBL) in a mouse model.


Among 434 consecutive non-diabetic men, the age-adjusted serum MBL concentration was lower in obese subjects than in lean subjects (median: 959 μg/ml [interquartile range: 116.8–2,044 μg/ml] vs 1,365 [467–2,513] μg/ml; p=0.01) and was accompanied by increased serum inflammatory markers. Insulin action correlated significantly with serum MBL (r=0.49, p<0.0001). Serum MBL concentration increased by a median of 110.2% after weight loss. The change in serum concentration of MBL was positively associated with the increase in insulin sensitivity (r=0.713, p=0.021). At least one MBL2 gene mutation was present in 48.2% of obese vs 39.3% of non-obese subjects (p=0.037). The plasma concentration of MBL-A was lower in insulin-resistant obese ob/ob mice, as was the glucose/insulin ratio. Incubation of rat soleus muscle with human MBL markedly increased fatty acid oxidation.


These findings suggest that MBL, previously thought only to be involved in inflammation and immune system function, affects metabolic pathways.