Aims/hypothesis: Thiazolidinediones can enhance clearance of whole-body non-esterified fatty acids and protect against the insulin resistance that develops during an acute lipid load. The present study used [(3)H]-R-bromopalmitate to compare the effects of the thiazolidinedione, rosiglitazone, and the biguanide, metformin, on insulin action and the tissue-specific fate of non-esterified fatty acids in rats during lipid infusion.
Methods: Normal rats were treated with rosiglitazone or metformin for 7 days. Triglyceride/heparin (to elevate non-esterified fatty acids) or glycerol (control) were then infused for 5 h, with a hyperinsulinaemic clamp being performed between the 3rd and 5th hours.
Results: Rosiglitazone and metformin prevented fatty-acid-induced insulin resistance (reduced clamp glucose infusion rate). Both drugs improved insulin-mediated suppression of hepatic glucose output but only rosiglitazone enhanced systemic non-esterified fatty acid clearance (plateau plasma non-esterified fatty acids reduced by 40%). Despite this decrease in plateau plasma non-esterified fatty acids, rosiglitazone increased fatty acid uptake (two-fold) into adipose tissue and reduced fatty acid uptake into liver (by 40%) and muscle (by 30%), as well as reducing liver long-chain fatty acyl CoA accumulation (by 30%). Both rosiglitazone and metformin increased liver AMP-activated protein kinase activity, a possible mediator of the protective effects on insulin action, but in contrast to rosiglitazone, metformin had no significant effect on non-esterified fatty acid kinetics or relative tissue fatty acid uptake.
Conclusions/interpretation: These results directly demonstrate the "lipid steal" mechanism, by which thiazolidinediones help prevent fatty-acid-induced insulin resistance. The contrasting mechanisms of action of rosiglitazone and metformin could be beneficial when both drugs are used in combination to treat insulin resistance.