Context: The rapidly increasing prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) globally places a growing population at risk for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), particularly those with persistent impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) postpartum.
Objective: We sought to 1) identify dynamic insulin signaling abnormalities in vivo in a prospective, longitudinal study of GDM women compared to weight-matched pregnant controls both antepartum and postpartum; and 2) determine abnormalities that might distinguish GDM women who normalize their glucose tolerance postpartum from those with persistent IGT.
Design: Skeletal muscle biopsies were obtained before and after a 75-g glucose load in nine overweight to obese GDM women and 10 weight-matched pregnant controls antepartum and postpartum. Postpartum biopsies were collected in five weight-matched GDM women with IGT (GDM/IGT).
Results: GDM women had decreased skeletal muscle insulin-stimulated insulin receptor and insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1) tyrosine activation and reduced IRS1, concomitant with increased basal IRS1 serine phosphorylation and basal p70 S6-kinase (S6K1) activation, which resolved postpartum. However, GDM/IGT subjects had a persistent impairment in IRS1 activation and increased S6K1 phosphorylation compared to GDM subjects with normal glucose tolerance.
Conclusions: This study reveals that women with GDM demonstrate impaired IRS1 signaling associated with increased S6K1 activation in skeletal muscle in vivo. This defect is maintained postpartum in GDM/IGT subjects, despite similar body weights and cytokine levels. Given that GDM women with persistent IGT are at a high risk of developing T2DM, understanding how the nutrient-sensitive mammalian target of rapamycin/S6K1 pathway is chronically activated in GDM may lead to important therapies that could prevent the progression to T2DM.