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Diabetologia. 2009 May;52(5):932-40. doi: 10.1007/s00125-009-1273-3. Epub 2009 Feb 14.

Involvement of TNF-alpha in abnormal adipocyte and muscle sortilin expression in obese mice and humans.

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INSERM U895, Mediterranean Center of Molecular Medicine (C3M), B√Ętiment Archimed, Nice Cedex 3, France.



Insulin resistance is caused by numerous factors including inflammation. It is characterised by defective insulin stimulation of adipocyte and muscle glucose transport, which requires the glucose transporter GLUT4 translocation towards the plasma membrane. Defects in insulin signalling can cause insulin resistance, but alterations in GLUT4 trafficking could also play a role. Our goal was to determine whether proteins controlling GLUT4 trafficking are altered in insulin resistance linked to obesity.


Using real-time RT-PCR, we searched for selected transcripts that were differentially expressed in adipose tissue and muscle in obese mice and humans. Using various adipocyte culture models and in vivo mice treatment, we searched for the involvement of TNF-alpha in these alterations in obesity.


Sortilin mRNA and protein were downregulated in adipose tissue from obese db/db and ob/ob mice, and also in muscle. Importantly, sortilin mRNA was also decreased in morbidly obese human diabetic patients. Sortilin and TNF-alpha (also known as TNF) mRNA levels were inversely correlated in mice and human adipose tissues. TNF-alpha decreased sortilin mRNA and protein levels in cultured mouse and human adipocytes, an effect partly prevented by the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma activator rosiglitazone. TNF-alpha also inhibited adipocyte and muscle sortilin mRNA when injected to mice.


Sortilin, an essential player in adipocyte and muscle glucose metabolism through the control of GLUT4 localisation, is downregulated in obesity and TNF-alpha is likely to be involved in this defect. Chronic low-grade inflammation in obesity could thus contribute to insulin resistance by modulating proteins that control GLUT4 trafficking.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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