Context: A subpopulation of obese individuals remains insulin sensitive (ISO). They represent a unique human model to investigate factors underlying insulin resistance (IR) without the confounding effect of major differences in weight/adiposity. Altered fatty-acid (FA) metabolism in sc adipose tissue (SAT) contributes to obesity-associated IR.
Objective: To test the hypothesis that ISO and body mass index-matched insulin-resistant obese (IRO) patients demonstrate differential SAT expression profiles of genes involved in glycerolipid-FA metabolism and that weight loss-induced improvement of IR ameliorates these changes.
Design and setting: A cross-sectional and longitudinal study.
Patients and intervention: Thirty-eight nondiabetic obese women were stratified into ISO (n = 25) or IRO (n = 13) groups based on hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp results. Subjects were studied before and after a 6-month hypocaloric diet intervention.
Main outcome measures: mRNA (quantitative RT-PCR) and protein (mass spectrometry and immunoblots) levels were measured in SAT biopsies.
Results: Despite having age, body mass index, and fat mass similar to ISO individuals, IRO patients had lower insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance (P < .05). Baseline SAT mRNA and protein levels of genes involved in both the synthesis and lipolysis of glycerolipid-FAs were higher in IRO individuals (P < .05), even when groups were matched for visceral adipose tissue content. The dietary intervention resulted in approximately 6% weight loss in both the IRO and ISO groups (P < .05) but only ameliorated insulin sensitivity in IRO individuals (P < .05). Likewise, the intervention reduced the expression of most glycerolipid-FA metabolism genes (P < .05), with expression levels in IRO individuals being restored to ISO levels.
Conclusions: Increased SAT expression of genes involved in both the synthesis and hydrolysis of glycerolipid-FAs is closely associated with IR in obese women. The results suggest that enhanced glycerolipid-FA cycling in SAT contributes to obesity-associated IR.