Human visfatin expression: relationship to insulin sensitivity, intramyocellular lipids, and inflammation

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Feb;92(2):666-72. doi: 10.1210/jc.2006-1303. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


Context: Visfatin (VF) is a recently described adipokine preferentially secreted by visceral adipose tissue (VAT) with insulin mimetic properties.

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the association of VF with insulin sensitivity, intramyocellular lipids (IMCL), and inflammation in humans.

Design and patients: VF mRNA was examined in paired samples of VAT and abdominal sc adipose tissue (SAT) obtained from subjects undergoing surgery. Plasma VF and VF mRNA was also examined in SAT and muscle tissue, obtained by biopsy from well-characterized subjects with normal or impaired glucose tolerance, with a wide range in body mass index (BMI) and insulin sensitivity (S(I)).

Setting: The study was conducted at a University Hospital and General Clinical Research Center.

Intervention: S(I) was measured, and fat and muscle biopsies were performed. In impaired glucose tolerance subjects, these procedures were performed before and after treatment with pioglitazone or metformin.

Main outcome measures: We measured the relationship between VF and obesity, S(I), adipose tissue inflammation, IMCL, and response to insulin sensitizers.

Results: No significant difference in VF mRNA was seen between SAT and VAT depots. VAT VF mRNA associated positively with BMI, whereas SAT VF mRNA decreased with BMI. SAT VF correlated positively with S(I), and the association of SAT VF mRNA with S(I) was independent of BMI. IMCL and markers of inflammation (adipose CD68 and plasma TNFalpha) were negatively associated with SAT VF. Impaired glucose tolerance subjects treated with pioglitazone showed no change in SAT VF mRNA despite a significant increase in S(I). Plasma VF and muscle VF mRNA did not correlate with BMI or S(I) or IMCL, and there was no change in muscle VF with either pioglitazone or metformin treatments.

Conclusion: SAT VF is highly expressed in lean, more insulin-sensitive subjects and is attenuated in subjects with high IMCL, low S(I), and high levels of inflammatory markers. VAT VF and SAT VF are regulated oppositely with BMI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / immunology*
  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Biomarkers
  • Biopsy
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Glucose Intolerance / drug therapy
  • Glucose Intolerance / immunology
  • Glucose Intolerance / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Lipid Metabolism / immunology
  • Metformin / pharmacology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / immunology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Nicotinamide Phosphoribosyltransferase
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Pioglitazone
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Thiazolidinediones / pharmacology


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Metformin
  • 2,4-thiazolidinedione
  • Nicotinamide Phosphoribosyltransferase
  • nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase, human
  • Pioglitazone