Effects of statins on the adipocyte maturation and expression of glucose transporter 4 (SLC2A4): implications in glycaemic control

Diabetologia. 2006 Aug;49(8):1881-92. doi: 10.1007/s00125-006-0269-5. Epub 2006 May 10.


Aims/hypothesis: Hyperlipidaemia often occurs in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Though HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) are widely used for controlling hypercholesterolemia, atorvastatin has also been reported to have an adverse effect on glucose metabolism. Based on these findings, the aim of this study was to investigate the effects of statins on adipocytes, which play pivotal roles in glucose metabolism.

Methods: In 3T3-L1 cells, effects of statins on adipocyte maturation were determined morphologically. Protein and mRNA levels of SLC2A4 and adipocyte marker proteins were determined by immunoblotting and RT-PCR, respectively. Type 2 diabetic NSY mice were treated with atorvastatin for 15 weeks, followed by glucose and insulin tolerance tests and examination of SLC2A4 expression in white adipose tissue (WAT). Seventy-eight Japanese subjects with type 2 diabetes and hypercholesterolaemia were treated with atorvastatin (10 mg/day), and its effects on lipid and glycaemic profiles were measured 12 weeks after treatment initiation.

Results: Treatment with atorvastatin inhibited adipocyte maturation, SLC2A4 and C/EBPalpha expressions and insulin action in 3T3-L1 cells. Atorvastatin also attenuated SLC2A4 and C/EBPalpha expressions in differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes. These effects were reversed by L. mevalonate or geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate. In NSY mice, atorvastatin accelerated glucose intolerance as a result of insulin resistance and decreased SLC2A4 expression in WAT. In addition to improving hyperlipidaemia, atorvastatin treatment significantly increased HbA(1c) but not fasting glucose levels in diabetic patients, and this effect was greater in the non-obese subgroup.

Conclusions/interpretation: These results demonstrate that atorvastatin attenuates adipocyte maturation and SLC2A4 expression by inhibiting isoprenoid biosynthesis, and impairs glucose tolerance. These actions of atorvastatin could potentially affect the control of type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes / drug effects
  • Adipocytes / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Atorvastatin
  • Biological Transport
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cellular Senescence / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / genetics*
  • Heptanoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Pyrroles / pharmacology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Heptanoic Acids
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Pyrroles
  • Slc2a4 protein, mouse
  • Atorvastatin