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Diabetes Care. 2008 Sep;31(9):1827-31. doi: 10.2337/dc08-0561. Epub 2008 Jun 12.

Acute modulation of toll-like receptors by insulin.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, State University of New York at Buffalo and Kaleida Health, Buffalo, New York, USA.



Low-dose insulin infusion has been shown to exert a prompt and powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are major determinants of the inflammatory response to viral and bacterial pathogens. We have now hypothesized that low-dose insulin infusion in obese type 2 diabetic patients suppresses TLR expression.


Ten type 2 diabetic patients were infused with a low dose of insulin (2 units/h) and dextrose to maintain normoglycemia for 4 h, while another 14 type 2 diabetic patients were infused with either dextrose or saline for 4 h and served as control subjects. Blood samples were collected before and at 2, 4, and 6 h. TLR expression was determined in mononuclear cells (MNCs).


Insulin infusion significantly suppressed TLR1, -2, -4, -7, and -9 mRNA expression in MNCs within 2 h of the infusion, with a maximum fall at 4 h by 24 +/- 9%, 21 +/- 5%, 30 +/- 8%, 28 +/- 5%, and 27 +/- 10% (P < 0.05, for all), respectively, below the baseline. TLR2 protein was suppressed by 19 +/- 7% (P < 0.05) below the baseline at 4 h. The DNA binding of PU.1, a major transcription factor regulating many TLR genes, was concomitantly suppressed by 24 +/- 10% (P < 0.05) by 4 h in MNCs. There was no change in TLR expression or DNA binding by PU.1 following dextrose or saline infusion in the control groups.


Insulin suppresses the expression of several TLRs at the transcriptional level, possibly through its suppressive effect on PU.1.

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