Insulin resistance is mechanistically linked to hepatic mitochondrial remodeling in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Chris E. Shannon, Mukundan Ragavan, Juan Pablo Palavicini, Marcel Fourcaudot, Terry M. Bakewell, Ivan A. Valdez, Iriscilla Ayala, Eunsook S. Jin, Muniswamy Madesh, Xianlin Han, Matthew E. Merritt, Luke Norton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objective: Insulin resistance and altered hepatic mitochondrial function are central features of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), but the etiological role of these processes in disease progression remains unclear. Here we investigated the molecular links between insulin resistance, mitochondrial remodeling, and hepatic lipid accumulation. Methods: Hepatic insulin sensitivity, endogenous glucose production, and mitochondrial metabolic fluxes were determined in wild-type, obese (ob/ob) and pioglitazone-treatment obese mice using a combination of radiolabeled tracer and stable isotope NMR approaches. Mechanistic studies of pioglitazone action were performed in isolated primary hepatocytes, whilst molecular hepatic lipid species were profiled using shotgun lipidomics. Results: Livers from obese, insulin-resistant mice displayed augmented mitochondrial content and increased tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) cycle and pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) activities. Insulin sensitization with pioglitazone mitigated pyruvate-driven TCA cycle activity and PDH activation via both allosteric (intracellular pyruvate availability) and covalent (PDK4 and PDP2) mechanisms that were dependent on PPARγ activity in isolated primary hepatocytes. Improved mitochondrial function following pioglitazone treatment was entirely dissociated from changes in hepatic triglycerides, diacylglycerides, or fatty acids. Instead, we highlight a role for the mitochondrial phospholipid cardiolipin, which underwent pathological remodeling in livers from obese mice that was reversed by insulin sensitization. Conclusion: Our findings identify targetable mitochondrial features of T2D and NAFLD and highlight the benefit of insulin sensitization in managing the clinical burden of obesity-associated disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101154
JournalMolecular Metabolism
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Cardiolipin
  • Insulin resistance
  • Metabolic liver disease
  • Mitochondria
  • Pyruvate dehydrogenase
  • Thiazolidinedione

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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