SOCS proteins causing trouble in insulin action

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2008 Jan;192(1):29-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.2007.01782.x.


First discovered as inhibitors of cytokine signalling, the suppressor of cytokine signalling (SOCS) proteins have appeared, over recent years, as potent repressors of other signalling pathways including the one induced by insulin. SOCS-1 and SOCS-3 have been extensively studied both in vitro and in vivo in the context of insulin action. It has been shown that these two SOCS members are able to inhibit the insulin signalling pathway by three different mechanisms: (1) inhibition of tyrosine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate (IRS) proteins because of competition at the docking site on the insulin receptor (IR), (2) induction of the proteasomal degradation of the IRS and (3) inhibition of the IR kinase. A key feature of the SOCS proteins is that they are induced regulators. Indeed, expression of SOCS proteins is virtually absent in basal conditions, but is rapidly and robustly induced in response to several stimuli such as hormones, cytokines and growth factors. A significant correlation between SOCS-3 expression and insulin resistance has been demonstrated in vivo. Interestingly, the level of SOCS-3 expression is strikingly enhanced in insulin-sensitive tissues from both patients and animal models with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. While it remains to be established whether the increased expression of SOCS is a cause or a consequence of insulin resistance, a large body of observations supports a role for SOCS proteins in the disease process found in states with insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Mice
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins / physiology*


  • Insulin
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins