Lipid-mediated muscle insulin resistance: different fat, different pathways?

J Mol Med (Berl). 2015 Aug;93(8):831-43. doi: 10.1007/s00109-015-1310-2. Epub 2015 Jun 25.


Increased dietary fat intake and lipolysis result in excessive lipid availability, which relates to impaired insulin sensitivity. Over the last years, several mechanisms possibly underlying lipid-mediated insulin resistance evolved. Lipid intermediates such as diacylglycerols (DAG) associate with changes in insulin sensitivity in many models. DAG activate novel protein kinase C (PKC) isoforms followed by inhibitory serine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1). Activation of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) raises another lipid class, ceramides (CER), which induce pro-inflammatory pathways and lead to inhibition of Akt phosphorylation. Inhibition of glucosylceramide and ganglioside synthesis results in improved insulin sensitivity and increased activatory tyrosine phosphorylation of IRS1 in the muscle. Incomplete fat oxidation can increase acylcarnitines (ACC), which in turn stimulate pro-inflammatory pathways. This review analyzed the effects of lipid metabolites on insulin action in skeletal muscle of humans and rodents. Despite the evidence for the association of both DAG and CER with insulin resistance, its causal relevance may differ depending on the subcellular localization and the tested cohorts, e.g., athletes. Nevertheless, recent data indicate that individual lipid species and their degree of fatty acid saturation, particularly membrane and cytosolic C18:2 DAG, specifically activate PKCθ and induce both acute lipid-induced and chronic insulin resistance in humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Muscles / pathology
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Insulin