Lipid composition of cell membranes and its relevance in type 2 diabetes mellitus

Curr Diabetes Rev. 2012 Sep;8(5):390-400. doi: 10.2174/157339912802083531.


Identifying the causative relationship between the fatty acid composition of cell membranes and type 2 diabetes mellitus fundamentally contributes to the understanding of the basic pathophysiological mechanisms of the disease. Important outcomes of the reviewed studies appear to support the hypotheses that the flexibility of a membrane determined by the ratio of (poly)unsaturated to saturated fatty acyl chains of its phospholipids influences the effectiveness of glucose transport by insulin-independent glucose transporters (GLUTs) and the insulin-dependent GLUT4, and from the prediabetic stage on a shift from unsaturated towards saturated fatty acyl chains of membrane phospholipids directly induces a decrease in glucose effectiveness and insulin sensitivity. In addition, it has become evident that a concomitant increase in stiffness of both plasma and erythrocyte membranes may decrease the microcirculatory flow, leading ultimately to tissue hypoxia, insufficient tissue nutrition, and diabetes-specific microvascular pathology. As to the etiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus, a revised hypothesis that attempts to accommodate the reviewed findings is presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / blood*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Microcirculation
  • Phospholipids / blood
  • Prediabetic State / blood*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Lipids
  • Phospholipids