Rac1 muscle knockout exacerbates the detrimental effect of high-fat diet on insulin-stimulated muscle glucose uptake independently of Akt

J Physiol. 2018 Jun;596(12):2283-2299. doi: 10.1113/JP275602. Epub 2018 May 10.


Key points: The actin cytoskeleton regulating GTPase, Rac1, is a novel player in insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in muscle in vivo. High-fat diet (HFD) exacerbates muscle insulin resistance in Rac1 muscle knockout (mKO) mice. Muscle Rac1 KO protects against HFD-induced insulin resistance in fat tissue indicating tissue cross-talk. A fatty diet markedly reduces insulin clearance in mice.

Abstract: Insulin resistance and perturbations in glucose metabolism underpin common lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. Insulin resistance in muscle is characterized by compromised activity of the GTPase, Ras-related C3 Botulinum toxin substrate 1 (Rac1), yet the role of Rac1 in insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in vivo and diet-induced insulin resistance is unknown. Inducible muscle-specific Rac1 knockout (Rac1 mKO) and wild type (WT) littermate mice were either fed a chow or a 60% high-fat diet (HFD). Insulin-stimulated 2-deoxy-glucose uptake, intracellular signalling, protein expression, substrate utilization, and glucose and insulin tolerance were assessed. In chow-fed mice, in vivo insulin-stimulated glucose uptake was reduced in triceps, soleus and gastrocnemius muscles from Rac1 mKO mice. HFD-induced whole body insulin resistance was exacerbated by the lack of muscle Rac1 and glucose uptake was reduced in all muscles, except for soleus. Muscle Akt (also known as protein kinase B) signalling was unaffected by diet or genotype. In adipose tissue, Rac1 mKO mice were protected from HFD-induced insulin resistance (with respect to both glucose uptake and phosphorylated-Akt), rendering their whole body glucose tolerance comparable to WT mice on HFD. Our findings show that lack of Rac1 exacerbates HFD-induced insulin resistance in skeletal muscle. Whole body glucose tolerance, however, was largely unaffected in Rac1 mKO mice, likely due to improved insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in adipose tissue. We conclude that lack of Rac1 in the context of obesity is detrimental to insulin-stimulated muscle glucose uptake in muscle independently of Akt signalling.

Keywords: Rac1; adipose tissue; diet-induced obesity; glucose homeostasis; glucose uptake; muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Neuropeptides
  • Rac1 protein, mouse
  • Akt1 protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein
  • Glucose