Background: Low birth weight (LBW) is associated with increased future risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus. The underlying molecular mechanisms remain poorly understood. We have previously shown that young LBW men have reduced skeletal muscle expression of PI3K p85alpha regulatory subunit and p110beta catalytic subunit, PKCzeta and GLUT4 in the fasting state. The aim of this study was to determine whether insulin activation of the PI3K/Akt and MAPK signalling pathways is altered in skeletal muscle of young adult men with LBW.
Methods: Vastus lateralis muscle biopsies were obtained from 20 healthy 19-yr old men with BW< or = 10th percentile for gestational age (LBW) and 20 normal birth weight controls (NBW), matched for physical fitness and whole-body glucose disposal, prior to (fasting state) and following a 4-hr hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp (insulin stimulated state). Expression and phosphorylation of selected proteins was determined by Western blotting.
Principal findings: Insulin stimulated expression of aPKCzeta (p<0.001) and Akt1 (p<0.001) was decreased in muscle of LBW men when compared to insulin stimulated controls. LBW was associated with increased insulin stimulated levels of IRS1 (p<0.05), PI3K p85alpha (p<0.001) and p110beta (p<0.05) subunits, while there was no significant change in these proteins in insulin stimulated control muscle. In addition LBW had reduced insulin stimulated phospho-Akt (Ser 473) (p<0.01), indicative of reduced Akt signalling. Insulin stimulated expression/phosphorylation of all the MAPK proteins studied [p38 MAPK, phospho-p38 MAPK (Thr180/Tyr182), phospho-ERK (Thr 202/Tyr204), JNK1, JNK2 and phospho-JNK (Thr 183/Tyr185)] was not different between groups.
Conclusions: We conclude that altered insulin activation of the PI3K/Akt but not the MAPK pathway precedes and may contribute to development of whole-body insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in men with LBW.