The TLR5 gene encodes an innate immunity receptor. Mice lacking Tlr5 (T5KO) develop insulin resistance and increased adiposity. Owing to the segregation of a dominant nonsense polymorphism (R392X, rs5744168), a portion of humans lack TLR5 function. We investigated whether the nonsense polymorphism influences obesity and susceptibility to type 2 diabetes (T2D). R392X was genotyped in two cohorts from Saudi Arabia, a region where obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) are highly prevalent. The nonsense allele was found to protect from obesity (p combined = 0.0062; odds ratio, 0.51) and to associate with lower body mass index (BMI) (pcombined = 0.0061); this allele also correlated with a reduced production of proinflammatory cytokines. A significant interaction was noted between rs5744168 and sex in affecting BMI (p interaction = 0.006), and stratification by gender revealed that the association is driven by females (pcombined = 0.0016 and 0.0006 for obesity and BMI, respectively). The nonsense polymorphism also associated with BMI in nonobese women. After correction for BMI, the 392X allele was found to represent a risk factor for T2D with a sex-specific effect (p interaction = 0.023) mediated by females (p = 0.021; odds ratio, 2.60). Fasting plasma glucose levels in nondiabetic individuals were also higher in women carrying the nonsense allele (p = 0.012). Thus, in contrast to T5KO mice, loss of human TLR5 function protects from weight gain, but in analogy to the animal model, the nonsense allele predisposes to T2D. These effects are apparently sex-specific. Data in this study reinforce the hypothesis that metabolic diseases, including T2D, are associated with immune dysregulation.
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