Hussey, S E, et al., A Sustained Increase in Plasma Nefa Upregulates the Toll-Like Receptor Network in Human Muscle. Diabetologia, 2013.
Insulin-sensitive tissues (muscle, liver) of individuals with obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus are in a state of low-grade inflammation, characterised by increased Toll-like receptor (TLR) expression and TLR-driven signalling. However, the cause of this mild inflammatory state is unclear. We tested the hypothesis that a prolonged mild increase in plasma NEFA will increase TLR expression and TLR-driven signalling (nuclear factor κB [NFκB] and mitogen-activated kinase [MAPK]) and impair insulin action in muscle of lean healthy individuals.
Twelve lean, normal-glucose-tolerant participants were randomised to receive a 48 h infusion (30 ml/h) of saline or Intralipid followed by a euglycaemic-hyperinsulinaemic clamp. Vastus lateralis muscle biopsies were performed before and during the clamp.
Lipid infusion impaired insulin-stimulated IRS-1 tyrosine phosphorylation and reduced peripheral insulin sensitivity (p < 0.01). The elevation in circulating NEFA increased expression of TLR3, TLR4 and TLR5, and several MAPK (MAPK8, MAP4K4, MAP2K3) and inhibitor of κB kinase-NFκB (CHUK [IKKA], c-REL [REL] and p65 [RELA, NFKB3, p65]) signalling genes (p < 0.05). The lipid infusion also increased extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation (p < 0.05) and tended to reduce the content of inhibitor of kappa Bα (p = 0.09). The muscle content of most diacylglycerol, ceramide and acylcarnitine species was unaffected. In summary, insulin resistance induced by prolonged low-dose lipid infusion occurs together with increased TLR-driven inflammatory signalling and impaired insulin-stimulated IRS-1 tyrosine phosphorylation.
A sustained, mild elevation in plasma NEFA is sufficient to increase TLR expression and TLR-driven signalling (NFκB and MAPK) in lean individuals. The activation of this pathway by NEFA may be involved in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance in humans. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01740817.