The role of TNF-alpha in insulin resistance

Endocrine. 2004 Mar-Apr;23(2-3):177-82. doi: 10.1385/ENDO:23:2-3:177.


Insulin resistance is an important component of the metabolic syndrome associated with obesity. Early-stage insulin-resistance and related mild glucose intolerance may be compensated by increased insulin secretion. When combined with impaired insulin secretion, insulin resistance plays an important role in type 2 diabetes (1). Insulin-resistance is also associated with a variety of pathological conditions, including trauma, infection, and cancer. Obesity and type 2 diabetes are the most common metabolic diseases in Western societies, together affecting as much as half of the adult population (2). The prevalence of these conditions is not only high, but continues to increase. We have only recently come to appreciate the role of fat, especially visceral fat, as an endocrine organ. Visceral fat is the source of a number of substances which might play a role in the development of insulin resistance. Among the latter are tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), adiponectin, IL-6, resistin and free fatty acids. This review will discuss the regulation of insulin responses by TNF-alpha and evidence supporting the hypothesis that over expression of TNF-alpha plays a role in the pathophysiology of insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*


  • Insulin
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha