Tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibits insulin-induced increase in endothelial nitric oxide synthase and reduces insulin receptor content and phosphorylation in human aortic endothelial cells

Metabolism. 2002 Apr;51(4):487-91. doi: 10.1053/meta.2002.31339.


Insulin exerts a vasodilatory effect through the release of nitric oxide (NO) from the endothelium. We have recently demonstrated that insulin also inhibits the expression of intracellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), 2 major proinflammatory mediators, by human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC) and the proinflammatory mediator, nuclear factor (NF-kappa B), in the nucleus in parallel with an increase in endothelial nitric oxide synthase (e-NOS) expression. The inhibition of ICAM-1 by insulin is NO dependent. Because tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a ) is proinflammatory and may thus inhibit the action of insulin at the endothelial cell level, we have now investigated whether TNF-a affects (1) insulin receptor content; (2) insulin receptor (IR) autophosphorylation induced by insulin, and (3) e-NOS expression by the endothelial cells. TNF-alpha (1 to 5 ng/mL) caused e-NOS inhibition in a dose-dependent fashion as measured by Western blotting. This inhibition was reduced with insulin addition. TNF-alpha also inhibited tyrosine autophosphorylation of the IR in HAEC induced by insulin and reduced IR beta-subunit protein expression in HAEC. These effects of insulin and TNF-alpha were independent of cell proliferation, as cell counts did not change with insulin or TNF-alpha. Our data demonstrate that TNF-alpha may exert its effect by inhibiting IR autophosphorylation in HAEC and also by reducing IR protein (IRP) expression. Although the inhibition of IR autophosphorylation by TNF-alpha is known to occur at the adipocyte level, the data on the inhibitory effect of TNF-alpha on insulin-induced e-NOS expression and IRP contents are novel.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aorta
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Humans
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / drug effects
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptor, Insulin / drug effects
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology*


  • Insulin
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • NOS3 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Receptor, Insulin