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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Jul 1;305(1):E89-100. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00573.2012. Epub 2013 May 7.

Thyroid hormone receptor-β agonists prevent hepatic steatosis in fat-fed rats but impair insulin sensitivity via discrete pathways.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Liver-specific thyroid hormone receptor-β (TRβ)-specific agonists are potent lipid-lowering drugs that also hold promise for treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and hepatic insulin resistance. We investigated the effect of two TRβ agonists (GC-1 and KB-2115) in high-fat-fed male Sprague-Dawley rats treated for 10 days. GC-1 treatment reduced hepatic triglyceride content by 75%, but the rats developed fasting hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia, attributable to increased endogenous glucose production (EGP) and diminished hepatic insulin sensitivity. GC-1 also increased white adipose tissue lipolysis; the resulting increase in glycerol flux may have contributed to the increase in EGP. KB-2115, a more TRβ- and liver-specific thyromimetic, also prevented hepatic steatosis but did not induce fasting hyperglycemia, increase basal EGP rate, or diminish hepatic insulin sensitivity. Surprisingly, insulin-stimulated peripheral glucose disposal was diminished because of a decrease in insulin-stimulated skeletal muscle glucose uptake. Skeletal muscle insulin signaling was unaffected. Instead, KB-2115 treatment was associated with a decrease in GLUT4 protein content. Thus, although both GC-1 and KB-2115 potently treat hepatic steatosis in fat-fed rats, they each worsen insulin action via specific and discrete mechanisms. The development of future TRβ agonists must consider the potential adverse effects on insulin sensitivity.


hepatic steatosis; insulin resistance; thyroid hormone receptor-β agonists

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