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Diabetologia. 2010 Mar;53(3):536-40. doi: 10.1007/s00125-009-1615-1. Epub 2009 Nov 27.

Thiazolidinediones increase the wingless-type MMTV integration site family (WNT) inhibitor Dickkopf-1 in adipocytes: a link with osteogenesis.

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The Lundberg Laboratory for Diabetes Research, Center of Excellence for Metabolic and Cardiovascular Research, Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Blå Stråket 3, 413 45 Gothenburg, Sweden.



Dickkopf-1 (DKK1) is a secreted inhibitor of canonical wingless-type MMTV integration site family (WNT) signalling; the key pathway for cell fate and development. Inhibition of WNT signalling by DKK1 in precursor cells promotes adipogenesis and inhibits osteogenesis. Previous studies have shown that treatment of type 2 diabetic patients with thiazolidinediones (TZDs) reduces bone density and increases risk of bone fractures, while body fat is increased.


We examined the effect of TZDs on secretion and DKK1 levels in pre-adipocytes and mature adipose cells and also measured circulating DKK1 levels in 11 patients with type 2 diabetes before and after treatment with the TZD rosiglitazone for 90 days.


TZDs added in vitro rapidly increased DKK1 protein levels and secretion in both fully differentiated adipose cells and pre-adipocytes undergoing differentiation. In parallel, beta-catenin levels, a marker of canonical WNT signalling, were reduced. Serum levels of DKK1 were also increased in several of the patients with type 2 diabetes after treatment with rosiglitazone for 90 days.


These results provide a novel mechanism whereby peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma activation can terminate WNT signalling and promote adipogenesis. Furthermore, they provide an explanation for why TZD treatment can lead to reduced bone formation and increased risk of fractures, since inhibited WNT signalling in progenitor cells promotes adipogenesis while osteogenesis is reduced.

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