The molecular basis for oxidative stress-induced insulin resistance

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2005 Jul-Aug;7(7-8):1040-52. doi: 10.1089/ars.2005.7.1040.


Reactive oxygen and nitrogen molecules have been typically viewed as the toxic by-products of metabolism. However, accumulating evidence has revealed that reactive species, including hydrogen peroxide, serve as signaling molecules that are involved in the regulation of cellular function. The chronic and/or increased production of these reactive molecules or a reduced capacity for their elimination, termed oxidative stress, can lead to abnormal changes in intracellular signaling and result in chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. Inflammation and oxidative stress have been linked to insulin resistance in vivo. Recent studies have found that this association is not restricted to insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes, but is also evident in obese, nondiabetic individuals, and in those patients with the metabolic syndrome. An increased concentration of reactive molecules triggers the activation of serine/threonine kinase cascades such as c-Jun N-terminal kinase, nuclear factor-kappaB, and others that in turn phosphorylate multiple targets, including the insulin receptor and the insulin receptor substrate (IRS) proteins. Increased serine phosphorylation of IRS reduces its ability to undergo tyrosine phosphorylation and may accelerate the degradation of IRS-1, offering an attractive explanation for the molecular basis of oxidative stress-induced insulin resistance. Consistent with this idea, studies with antioxidants such as vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid, and N-acetylcysteine indicate a beneficial impact on insulin sensitivity, and offer the possibility for new treatment approaches for insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Glucose