The Journal of Immunology
Many studies have shown that TLR4- and TLR2-deficient mice are protected from high-fat diet-induced inflammation and insulin resistance, suggesting that saturated fatty acids derived from the high-fat diet activate TLR-mediated proinflammatory signaling pathways and induce insulin resistance. However, evidence that palmitic acid, the major dietary saturated fatty acid, can directly activate TLR has not been demonstrated. In this article, we present multiple lines of evidence showing that palmitic acid directly activates TLR2, a major TLR expressed on human monocytes, by inducing heterodimerization with TLR1 in an NADPH oxidase-dependent manner. Dimerization of TLR2 with TLR1 was inhibited by the n-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid. Activation of TLR2 by palmitic acid leads to expression of pro-IL-1 that is cleaved by caspase-1, which is constitutively present in monocytes, to release mature IL-1. Our results reveal mechanistic insight about how palmitic acid activates TLR2, upregulates NALP3 expression, and induces inflammasome-mediated IL-1 production in human monocytes, which can trigger enhanced inflammation in peripheral tissues, and suggest that these processes are dynamically modulated by the types of dietary fat we consume.