Pathogenesis of skeletal muscle insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus

Am J Cardiol. 2002 Sep 5;90(5A):11G-18G. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9149(02)02554-7.


Insulin resistance is a principal feature of type 2 diabetes and precedes the clinical development of the disease by 10 to 20 years. Insulin resistance is caused by the decreased ability of peripheral target tissues (especially muscle) to respond properly to normal circulating concentrations of insulin. Defects in muscle glycogen synthesis play a significant role in insulin resistance, and 3 potentially rate-controlling steps in muscle glucose metabolism have been implicated in its pathogenesis: glycogen synthase, hexokinase, and GLUT4 (the major insulin-stimulated glucose transporter). Results from recent studies using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy implicate intracellular defects in glucose transport as the rate-controlling step for insulin-mediated glucose uptake in muscle. These alterations in glucose transport activity are likely the result of dysregulation of intramyocellular fatty acid metabolism, whereby fatty acids cause insulin resistance by activation of a serine kinase cascade, leading to decreased insulin-stimulated insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 tyrosine phosphorylation and decreased IRS-1-associated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activity, a required step in insulin-stimulated glucose transport into muscle. The thiazolidinedione class of antidiabetic agents directly targets insulin resistance in skeletal muscle by improving glucose transport activity and insulin-stimulated muscle glycogen synthesis. Although the precise mechanism of action is not known, recent NMR studies support the hypothesis that these agents improve insulin action in skeletal muscle and liver by promoting a redistribution of fat out of these tissues and into peripheral adipocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycogen / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / enzymology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Thiazoles / pharmacology


  • Fatty Acids
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Thiazoles
  • Glycogen
  • Glucose