, Volume 56, Issue 12, pp 2573-2581
Date: 25 Sep 2013

Start of insulin therapy in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus promotes the influx of macrophages into subcutaneous adipose tissue



Insulin therapy in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus is accompanied by weight gain characterised by an increase in abdominal fat mass. The expansion of adipose tissue mass is generally paralleled by profound morphological and inflammatory changes. We hypothesised that the insulin-associated increase in fat mass would also result in changes in the morphology of human subcutaneous adipose tissue and in increased inflammation, especially when weight gain was excessive.


We investigated the effects of weight gain on adipocyte size, macrophage influx, and mRNA expression and protein levels of key inflammatory markers within the adipose tissue in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus before and 6 months after starting insulin therapy.


As expected, insulin therapy significantly increased body weight. At the level of the subcutaneous adipose tissue, insulin treatment led to an influx of macrophages. When comparing patients gaining no or little weight with patients gaining >4% body weight after 6 months of insulin therapy, both subgroups displayed an increase in macrophage influx. However, individuals who had gained weight had higher protein levels of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, TNF-α and IL-1β after 6 months of insulin therapy compared with those who had not gained weight.


We conclude that insulin therapy in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus improved glycaemic control but also induced body weight gain and an influx of macrophages into the subcutaneous adipose tissue. In patients characterised by a pronounced insulin-associated weight gain, the influx of macrophages into the adipose tissue was accompanied by a more pronounced inflammatory status.

Trial registration

ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00781495.


The study was funded by European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes and the Dutch Diabetes Research Foundation.