Adipose tissue IL-6 content correlates with resistance to insulin activation of glucose uptake both in vivo and in vitro

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 May;87(5):2084-9. doi: 10.1210/jcem.87.5.8450.


Obesity and type 2 diabetes are associated with insulin resistance, the mechanisms of which remain poorly understood. A significant correlation between circulating IL-6 level and insulin sensitivity has recently been found in humans. Because adipose tissue could be a significant source of IL-6, we analyzed the relationship between the levels of adipose tissue IL-6 and insulin action in vivo, during a hyperinsulinemic normoglycemic clamp, and in vitro by measuring glucose transport in adipocytes from 12 obese subjects with (n = 7) or without (n = 5) diabetes. We observed an inverse correlation between adipose tissue IL-6 content and maximal insulin-responsiveness measured in vivo (P < 0.02) and in vitro (P < 0.02). Conversely, there was no significant correlation between these two later parameters and adipose tissue leptin or tumor necrosis factor-alpha protein contents. Furthermore, we showed, for the first time, the presence of immunoreactive IL-6 receptors in the plasma membrane of human abdominal sc adipocytes. This suggests that locally secreted IL-6 could act on adipocytes by an autocrine/paracrine mechanism. In conclusion, increased IL-6 production by sc adipose cells might participate to the insulin-resistant state observed in human obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Reference Values


  • Cytokines
  • Insulin
  • Interleukin-6
  • Glucose