Transcriptomic changes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells with weight loss: systematic literature review and primary data synthesis

K. Day*, A.L. Dordevic, H. Truby, M.C. Southey, S. Coort, C. Murgia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Background and objectives: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) have shown promise as a tissue sensitive to subtle and possibly systemic transcriptomic changes, and as such may be useful in identifying responses to weight loss interventions. The primary aim was to comprehensively evaluate the transcriptomic changes that may occur during weight loss and to determine if there is a consistent response across intervention types in human populations of all ages.Methods: Included studies were randomised control trials or cohort studies that administered an intervention primarily designed to decrease weight in any overweight or obese human population. A systematic search of the literature was conducted to obtain studies and gene expression databases were interrogated to locate corresponding transcriptomic datasets. Datasets were normalised using the ArrayAnalysis online tool and differential gene expression was determined using the limma package in R. Over-represented pathways were explored using the PathVisio software. Heatmaps and hierarchical clustering were utilised to visualise gene expression.Results: Seven papers met the inclusion criteria, five of which had raw gene expression data available. Of these, three could be grouped into high responders (HR, >= 5% body weight loss) and low responders (LR). No genes were consistently differentially expressed between high and low responders across studies. Adolescents had the largest transcriptomic response to weight loss followed by adults who underwent bariatric surgery. Seven pathways were altered in two out of four studies following the intervention and the pathway 'cytoplasmic ribosomal proteins' (WikiPathways: WP477) was altered between HR and LR at baseline in the two datasets with both groups. Pathways related to 'toll-like receptor signalling' were altered in HR response to the weight loss intervention in two out of three datasets.Conclusions: Transcriptomic changes in PBMCs do occur in response to weight change. Transparent and standardised data reporting is needed to realise the potential of transcriptomics for investigating phenotypic features. Registration number PROSPERO:
Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Number of pages14
JournalGenes and nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Transcriptomics
  • Obesity
  • Weight loss intervention
  • Overweight
  • Gene expression
  • DIET


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