Regulation of insulin sensitivity by serine/threonine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate proteins IRS1 and IRS2

Diabetologia. 2012 Oct;55(10):2565-2582. doi: 10.1007/s00125-012-2644-8. Epub 2012 Aug 8.


The insulin receptor substrate proteins IRS1 and IRS2 are key targets of the insulin receptor tyrosine kinase and are required for hormonal control of metabolism. Tissues from insulin-resistant and diabetic humans exhibit defects in IRS-dependent signalling, implicating their dysregulation in the initiation and progression of metabolic disease. However, IRS1 and IRS2 are regulated through a complex mechanism involving phosphorylation of >50 serine/threonine residues (S/T) within their long, unstructured tail regions. In cultured cells, insulin-stimulated kinases (including atypical PKC, AKT, SIK2, mTOR, S6K1, ERK1/2 and ROCK1) mediate feedback (autologous) S/T phosphorylation of IRS, with both positive and negative effects on insulin sensitivity. Additionally, insulin-independent (heterologous) kinases can phosphorylate IRS1/2 under basal conditions (AMPK, GSK3) or in response to sympathetic activation and lipid/inflammatory mediators, which are present at elevated levels in metabolic disease (GRK2, novel and conventional PKCs, JNK, IKKβ, mPLK). An emerging view is that the positive/negative regulation of IRS by autologous pathways is subverted/co-opted in disease by increased basal and other temporally inappropriate S/T phosphorylation. Compensatory hyperinsulinaemia may contribute strongly to this dysregulation. Here, we examine the links between altered patterns of IRS S/T phosphorylation and the emergence of insulin resistance and diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins / deficiency
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins / genetics
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Animal
  • Phosphorylation
  • Serine / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Threonine / metabolism*


  • IRS1 protein, human
  • IRS2 protein, human
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins
  • Threonine
  • Serine