Increased intramyocellular lipid concentrations are thought to play a role in insulin resistance, but the precise nature of the lipid species that produce insulin resistance in human muscle are unknown. Ceramides, either generated via activation of sphingomyelinase or produced by de novo synthesis, induce insulin resistance in cultured cells by inhibitory effects on insulin signaling. The present study was undertaken to determine whether ceramides or other sphingolipids are increased in muscle from obese insulin-resistant subjects and to assess whether ceramide plays a role in the insulin resistance of Akt in human muscle. Lean insulin-sensitive and obese insulin-resistant subjects (n = 10 each) received euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamps with muscle biopsies basally and after 30, 45, or 60 min of insulin infusion. The rate of glucose infusion required to maintain euglycemia (reflecting glucose uptake) was reduced by >50%, as expected, in the obese subjects at each time point (P < 0.01). Under basal conditions, total muscle ceramide content was increased nearly twofold in the obese subjects (46 ± 9 vs. 25 ± 2 pmol/2 mg muscle, P < 0.05). All species of ceramides were increased similarly in the obese subjects; in contrast, no other sphingolipid was increased. Stimulation of Akt phosphorylation by insulin in the obese subjects was significantly reduced after 30 min (0.96 ± 0.11 vs. 1.84 ± 0.38 arbitrary units) or 45-60 min (0.68 ± 0.17 vs. 1.52 ± 0.26) of insulin infusion (P < 0.05 for both). Muscle ceramide content was significantly correlated with the plasma free fatty acid concentration (r = 0.51, P < 0.05). We conclude that obesity is associated with increased intramyocellular ceramide content. This twofold increase in ceramide may be involved in the decrease in Akt phosphorylation observed after insulin infusion and could theoretically play a role in the reduced ability of insulin to stimulate glucose uptake in skeletal muscle from obese subjects.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism