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Immunohistochemical profiling of the heat shock response in obese non-diabetic subjects revealed impaired expression of heat shock proteins in the adipose tissue

Ali Tiss1, Abdelkrim Khadir1, Jehad Abubaker1, Mohamed Abu-Farha1, Irina Al-Khairi1, Preethi Cherian1, Jeena John1, Sina Kavalakatt1, Samia Warsame1, Fahad Al-Ghimlas2, Naser Elkum3, Kazem Behbehani123, Said Dermime4 and Mohammed Dehbi5*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Research, Dasman Diabetes Institute, Kuwait City, Kuwait

2 Fitness and Rehabilitation Center, Dasman Diabetes Institute, Kuwait City, Kuwait

3 Department Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Dasman Diabetes Institute, Kuwait City, Kuwait

4 Department of Biomedical Research, King Fahad Specialist Hospital, Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

5 Diabetes Research Centre, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, Box: 5825, Doha, Qatar

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2014, 13:106  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-106

Published: 1 July 2014



Obesity is characterized by a chronic low-grade inflammation and altered stress responses in key metabolic tissues. Impairment of heat shock response (HSR) has been already linked to diabetes and insulin resistance as reflected by decrease in heat shock proteins (HSPs) expression. However, the status of HSR in non-diabetic human obese has not yet been elucidated. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether obesity triggers a change in the HSR pattern and the impact of physical exercise on this pattern at protein and mRNA levels.


Two groups of adult non-diabetic human subjects consisting of lean and obese (n = 47 for each group) were enrolled in this study. The expression pattern of HSP-27, DNAJB3/HSP-40, HSP-60, HSC-70, HSP72, HSP-90 and GRP-94 in the adipose tissue was primarily investigated by immunohistochemistry and then complemented by western blot and qRT-PCR in Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). HSPs expression levels were correlated with various physical, clinical and biochemical parameters. We have also explored the effect of a 3-month moderate physical exercise on the HSPs expression pattern in obese subjects.


Obese subjects displayed increased expression of HSP-60, HSC-70, HSP-72, HSP-90 and GRP-94 and lower expression of DNAJB3/HSP-40 (P < 0.05). No differential expression was observed for HSP-27 between the two groups. Higher levels of HSP-72 and GRP-94 proteins correlated positively with the indices of obesity (body mass index and percent body fat) and circulating levels of IFN-gamma-inducible protein 10 (IP-10) and RANTES chemokines. This expression pattern was concomitant with increased inflammatory response in the adipose tissue as monitored by increased levels of Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and RANTES (P < 0.05). Physical exercise reduced the expression of various HSPs in obese to normal levels observed in lean subjects with a parallel decrease in the endogenous levels of IL-6, TNF-α, and RANTES.


Taken together, these data indicate that obesity triggers differential regulation of various components of the HSR in non-diabetic subjects and a 3-month physical moderate exercise was sufficient to restore the normal expression of HSPs in the adipose tissue with concomitant attenuation in the inflammatory response.

Heat shock protein; HSP; Exercise; ER stress; Obesity; Adipose tissue