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Review
. 2014 Jul;61(7):B4890.

Metabolism and Insulin Signaling in Common Metabolic Disorders and Inherited Insulin Resistance

Affiliations
  • PMID: 25123125
Review

Metabolism and Insulin Signaling in Common Metabolic Disorders and Inherited Insulin Resistance

Kurt Højlund. Dan Med J. .

Abstract

Type 2 diabetes, obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are common metabolic disorders which are observed with increasing prevalences, and which are caused by a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors, including increased calorie intake and physical inactivity. These metabolic disorders are all characterized by reduced plasma adiponectin and insulin resistance in peripheral tissues. Quantitatively skeletal muscle is the major site of insulin resistance. Both low plasma adiponectin and insulin resistance contribute to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In several studies, we have investigated insulin action on glucose and lipid metabolism, and at the molecular level, insulin signaling to glucose transport and glycogen synthesis in skeletal muscle from healthy individuals and in obesity, PCOS and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, we have described a novel syndrome characterized by postprandial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia and insulin resistance. This syndrome is caused by a mutation in the tyrosine kinase domain of the insulin receptor gene (INSR). We have studied individuals with this mutation as a model of inherited insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes, obesity and PCOS are characterized by pronounced defects in the insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, in particular glycogen synthesis and to a lesser extent glucose oxidation, and the ability of insulin to suppress lipid oxidation. In inherited insulin resistance, however, only insulin action on glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis is impaired. This suggests that the defects in glucose and lipid oxidation in the common metabolic disorders are secondary to other factors. In young women with PCOS, the degree of insulin resistance was similar to that seen in middle-aged patients with type 2 diabetes. This supports the hypothesis of an unique pathogenesis of insulin resistance in PCOS. Insulin in physiological concentrations stimulates glucose uptake in human skeletal muscle in vivo by activation of the insulin signaling cascade to glucose transport through the enzymes IRS1, PI3K, Akt2, AS160/TBC1D4 and RAC1, and to glycogen synthesis through Akt2, inhibition of GSK3 and activation of glycogen synthase (GS) via dephosphorylation of serine residues in both the NH2-terminal (site 2+2a) and the COOH-terminal end (site 3a+3b). In type 2 diabetes, obesity and PCOS, there is, although with some variation from study to study, defects in insulin signaling through IRS1, PI3K, Akt2 and AS160/TBC1D4, which can explain reduced insulin action on glucose transport. In type 2 diabetes an altered intracellular distribution of SNAP23 and impaired activation of RAC1 also seem to play a role for reduced insulin action on glucose transport. In all common metabolic disorders, we observed an impaired insulin activation of GS, which seems to be caused by attenuated dephosphorylation of GS at site 2+2a, whereas as the inhibition of GSK3 and the dephosphorylation of GS at its target sites, site 3a+3a, appeared to be completely normal. In individuals with inherited insulin resistance, we observed largely the same defects in insulin action on IRS1, PI3K, Akt2 and GS, as well as a normal inhibition of GSK3 and dephosphorylation of GS at site 3a+3b. In these individuals, however, a markedly reduced insulin clearance seems to partially rescue insulin signaling to glucose transport and GS. Adiponectin is thought to improve insulin sensitivity primarily by increasing lipid oxidation through activation of the enzyme AMPK, and possibly via cross-talking of adiponectin with insulin signaling, and hence glucose transport and glycogen synthesis. We demonstrated a strong correlation between plasma adiponectin and insulin action on glucose disposal and glycogen synthesis in obesity, type 2 diabetes and PCOS. In individuals with inherited insulin resistance, plasma adiponectin was normal, but the correlation of adiponectin with insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis was at least equally strong. Moreover, we found a correlation between plasma adiponectin and insulin activation of GS. This result is supported by a number of recent studies of animal models and muscle cell lines, which have shown that adiponectin augments insulin action on enzymes in the insulin signaling cascade. In contrast, we observed no differences in the abundance or activity of AMPK in obesity, type 2 diabetes, PCOS or inherited insulin resistance. This indicates that reduced insulin sensitivity in these conditions is not mediated via abnormal AMPK activity. The results from these studies demonstrate that the well-established abnormalities in insulin action on glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis are reflected by defects in insulin signaling to these cellular processes in type 2 diabetes, obesity, and PCOS, and as expected also in inherited insulin resistance caused by a mutation in INSR. In common metabolic disorders, low plasma adiponectin may contribute to insulin resistance and defects in insulin signaling, whereas in inherited insulin resistance a normal plasma adiponectin and reduced insulin clearance could contribute to maintain a sufficient activation of the insulin signaling cascade. The insight gained from these studies have improved our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying insulin resistance in skeletal muscle of humans, and can form the basis for further studies, which can lead to the development of treatment that more directly targets insulin resistance, and hence reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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