MDPI, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 6(23), p. 2933, 2022
Obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are highly prevalent disorders, associated with insulin resistance and chronic inflammation. The brain is key for energy homeostasis and contains many insulin receptors. Microglia, the resident brain immune cells, are known to express insulin receptors (InsR) and to be activated by a hypercaloric environment. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether microglial insulin signaling is involved in the control of systemic energy homeostasis and whether this function is sex-dependent. We generated a microglia-specific knockout of the InsR gene in male and female mice and exposed them to control or obesogenic dietary conditions. Following 10 weeks of diet exposure, we evaluated insulin tolerance, energy metabolism, microglial morphology and phagocytic function, and neuronal populations. Lack of microglial InsR resulted in increased plasma insulin levels and insulin resistance in obese female mice. In the brain, loss of microglial InsR led to a decrease in microglial primary projections in both male and female mice, irrespective of the diet. In addition, in obese male mice lacking microglial InsR the number of proopiomelanocortin neurons was decreased, compared to control diet, while no differences were observed in female mice. Our results demonstrate a sex-dependent effect of microglial InsR-signaling in physiology and obesity, and stress the importance of a heterogeneous approach in the study of diseases such as obesity and T2DM.