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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Jun;296(6):E1300-10. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.90885.2008. Epub 2009 Mar 31.

Muscle inflammatory response and insulin resistance: synergistic interaction between macrophages and fatty acids leads to impaired insulin action.

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Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA.


Obesity is characterized by adipose tissue expansion as well as macrophage infiltration of adipose tissue. This results in an increase in circulating inflammatory cytokines and nonesterified fatty acids, factors that cause skeletal muscle insulin resistance. Whether obesity also results in skeletal muscle inflammation is not known. In this study, we quantified macrophages immunohistochemically in vastus lateralis biopsies from eight obese and eight lean subjects. Our study demonstrates that macrophages infiltrate skeletal muscle in obesity, and we developed an in vitro system to study this mechanistically. Myoblasts were isolated from vastus lateralis biopsies and differentiated in culture. Coculture of differentiated human myotubes with macrophages in the presence of palmitic acid, to mimic an obese environment, revealed that macrophages in the presence of palmitic acid synergistically augment cytokine and chemokine expression in myotubes, decrease IkappaB-alpha protein expression, increase phosphorylated JNK, decrease phosphorylated Akt, and increase markers of muscle atrophy. These results suggest that macrophages alter the inflammatory state of muscle cells in an obese milieu, inhibiting insulin signaling. Thus in obesity both adipose tissue and skeletal muscle inflammation may contribute to insulin resistance.

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