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J Biol Chem. 2003 Dec 26;278(52):52298-306. Epub 2003 Oct 5.

Expression profiling identifies genes that continue to respond to insulin in adipocytes made insulin-resistant by treatment with tumor necrosis factor-alpha.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Division of Vascular Biology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


We have employed microarray technology using RNA from normal 3T3-L1 adipocytes and from 3T3-L1 adipocytes made insulin-resistant by treatment with tumor necrosis factor-alpha to identify a new class of insulin-responsive genes. These genes continued to respond normally to insulin even though the adipocytes themselves were metabolically insulin-resistant, i.e. they displayed a significantly decreased rate of insulin-stimulated glucose uptake. Approximately 12,000 genes/expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were screened. Of these, 40 genes/ESTs were identified that became insulin-resistant as expected (e.g. Socs-3, junB, and matrix metalloproteinase-11). However, 61 genes/ESTs continued to respond normally to insulin. Although some of these genes were previously shown to be regulated by insulin (e.g. Glut-1 and beta3-adrenergic receptor), other novel insulin-sensitive genes were also identified (e.g. Egr-1, epiregulin, Fra-1, and ABCA1). Real-time reverse transcription-PCR analysis confirmed the expression patterns of several of the differentially expressed genes. One gene that remained insulin-sensitive in the insulin-resistant adipocytes is the transcription factor Egr-1. Using an antisense strategy, we show that tissue factor and macrophage colony-stimulating factor, two cardiovascular risk factors, are downstream EGR-1 target genes in the adipocyte. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that some signaling pathways remain insulin-sensitive in metabolically insulin-resistant adipocytes. These pathways may promote abnormal gene expression in hyperinsulinemic states like obesity and type II diabetes and thus may contribute to pathologies associated with these conditions.

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