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Diabetologia. 2010 Sep;53(9):2008-19. doi: 10.1007/s00125-010-1773-1. Epub 2010 May 20.

Increased levels of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma, coactivator 1 alpha (PGC-1alpha) improve lipid utilisation, insulin signalling and glucose transport in skeletal muscle of lean and insulin-resistant obese Zucker rats.

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Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.



Reductions in peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma, coactivator 1 alpha (PGC-1alpha) levels have been associated with the skeletal muscle insulin resistance. However, in vivo, the therapeutic potential of PGC-1alpha has met with failure, as supra-physiological overexpression of PGC-1alpha induced insulin resistance, due to fatty acid translocase (FAT)-mediated lipid accumulation. Based on physiological and metabolic considerations, we hypothesised that a modest increase in PGC-1alpha levels would limit FAT upregulation and improve lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, although these effects may differ in lean and insulin-resistant muscle.


Pgc-1alpha was transfected into lean and obese Zucker rat muscles. Two weeks later we examined mitochondrial biogenesis, intramuscular lipids (triacylglycerol, diacylglycerol, ceramide), GLUT4 and FAT levels, insulin-stimulated glucose transport and signalling protein phosphorylation (thymoma viral proto-oncogene 2 [Akt2], Akt substrate of 160 kDa [AS160]), and fatty acid oxidation in subsarcolemmal and intermyofibrillar mitochondria.


Electrotransfection yielded physiologically relevant increases in Pgc-1alpha (also known as Ppargc1a) mRNA and protein ( approximately 25%) in lean and obese muscle. This induced mitochondrial biogenesis, and increased FAT and GLUT4 levels, insulin-stimulated glucose transport, and Akt2 and AS160 phosphorylation in lean and obese animals, while bioactive intramuscular lipids were only reduced in obese muscle. Concurrently, PGC-1alpha increased palmitate oxidation in subsarcolemmal, but not in intermyofibrillar mitochondria, in both groups. In obese compared with lean animals, the PGC-1alpha-induced improvement in insulin-stimulated glucose transport was smaller, but intramuscular lipid reduction was greater.


Increases in PGC-1alpha levels, similar to those that can be induced by physiological stimuli, altered intramuscular lipids and improved fatty acid oxidation, insulin signalling and insulin-stimulated glucose transport, albeit to different extents in lean and insulin-resistant muscle. These positive effects are probably attributable to limiting the PGC-1alpha-induced increase in FAT, thereby preventing bioactive lipid accumulation as has occurred in transgenic PGC-1alpha animals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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