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Endocrinology. 2006 Jan;147(1):552-61. Epub 2005 Oct 13.

Palmitate induces tumor necrosis factor-alpha expression in C2C12 skeletal muscle cells by a mechanism involving protein kinase C and nuclear factor-kappaB activation.

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Pharmacology Unit, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutic Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Barcelona, E-08028 Barcelona, Spain.


The mechanisms responsible for increased expression of TNF-alpha in skeletal muscle cells in diabetic states are not well understood. We examined the effects of the saturated acid palmitate on TNF-alpha expression. Exposure of C2C12 skeletal muscle cells to 0.75 mm palmitate enhanced mRNA (25-fold induction, P < 0.001) and protein (2.5-fold induction) expression of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha. This induction was inversely correlated with a fall in GLUT4 mRNA levels (57% reduction, P < 0.001) and glucose uptake (34% reduction, P < 0.001). PD98059 and U0126, inhibitors of the ERK-MAPK cascade, partially prevented the palmitate-induced TNF-alpha expression. Palmitate increased nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB activation and incubation of the cells with the NF-kappaB inhibitors pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate and parthenolide partially prevented TNF-alpha expression. Incubation of palmitate-treated cells with calphostin C, a strong and specific inhibitor of protein kinase C (PKC), abolished palmitate-induced TNF-alpha expression, and restored GLUT4 mRNA levels. Palmitate treatment enhanced the expression of phospho-PKCtheta, suggesting that this PKC isoform was involved in the changes reported, and coincubation of palmitate-treated cells with the PKC inhibitor chelerythrine prevented the palmitate-induced reduction in the expression of IkappaBalpha and insulin-stimulated Akt activation. These findings suggest that enhanced TNF-alpha expression and GLUT4 down-regulation caused by palmitate are mediated through the PKC activation, confirming that this enzyme may be a target for either the prevention or the treatment of fatty acid-induced insulin resistance.

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