Proinflammatory cytokines play important roles in insulin resistance. Here we report that mice with a T-cell-specific conditional knockout of HGK (T-HGK cKO) develop systemic inflammation and insulin resistance. This condition is ameliorated by either IL-6 or IL-17 neutralization. HGK directly phosphorylates TRAF2, leading to its lysosomal degradation and subsequent inhibition of IL-6 production. IL-6-overproducing HGK-deficient T cells accumulate in adipose tissue and further differentiate into IL-6/IL-17 double-positive cells. Moreover, CCL20 neutralization or CCR6 deficiency reduces the Th17 population or insulin resistance in T-HGK cKO mice. In addition, leptin receptor deficiency in T cells inhibits Th17 differentiation and improves the insulin sensitivity in T-HGK cKO mice, which suggests that leptin cooperates with IL-6 to promote Th17 differentiation. Thus, HGK deficiency induces TRAF2/IL-6 upregulation, leading to IL-6/leptin-induced Th17 differentiation in adipose tissue and subsequent insulin resistance. These findings provide insight into the reciprocal regulation between the immune system and the metabolism. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.