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Diabetes. 2008 Oct;57(10):2595-602. doi: 10.2337/db08-0038. Epub 2008 Jul 15.

Elevated toll-like receptor 4 expression and signaling in muscle from insulin-resistant subjects.

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Diabetes Division, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, USA.


OBJECTIVE- Tall-like receptor (TLR)4 has been implicated in the pathogenesis of free fatty acid (FFA)-induced insulin resistance by activating inflammatory pathways, including inhibitor of kappaB (IkappaB)/nuclear factor kappaB (NFkappaB). However, it is not known whether insulin-resistant subjects have abnormal TLR4 signaling. We examined whether insulin-resistant subjects have abnormal TLR4 expression and TLR4-driven (IkappaB/NFkappaB) signaling in skeletal muscle. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS- TLR4 gene expression and protein content were measured in muscle biopsies in 7 lean, 8 obese, and 14 type 2 diabetic subjects. A primary human myotube culture system was used to examine whether FFAs stimulate IkappaB/NFkappaB via TLR4 and whether FFAs increase TLR4 expression/content in muscle. RESULTS- Obese and type 2 diabetic subjects had significantly elevated TLR4 gene expression and protein content in muscle. TLR4 muscle protein content correlated with the severity of insulin resistance. Obese and type 2 diabetic subjects also had lower IkappaBalpha content, an indication of elevated IkappaB/NFkappaB signaling. The increase in TLR4 and NFkappaB signaling was accompanied by elevated expression of the NFkappaB-regulated genes interleukin (IL)-6 and superoxide dismutase (SOD)2. In primary human myotubes, acute palmitate treatment stimulated IkappaB/NFkappaB, and blockade of TLR4 prevented the ability of palmitate to stimulate the IkappaB/NFkappaB pathway. Increased TLR4 content and gene expression observed in muscle from insulin-resistant subjects were reproduced by treating myotubes from lean, normal-glucose-tolerant subjects with palmitate. Palmitate also increased IL-6 and SOD2 gene expression, and this effect was prevented by inhibiting NFkappaB. CONCLUSIONS- Abnormal TLR4 expression and signaling, possibly caused by elevated plasma FFA levels, may contribute to the pathogenesis of insulin resistance in humans.

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