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S. Matthaei, H. Benecke, H. H. Klein, A. Hamann, G. Kreymann, and H. Greten


To examine the cellular mechanism responsible for impaired insulin action in ageing, we determined various in-vitro parameters involved in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, i.e. basal and insulin-stimulated [14C]3-O-methylglucose transport (30MG), 125I-labelled insulin binding, activation of insulin receptor kinase (IRKA) in intact cells, and number and subcellular distribution of glucose transporters in subcellular membrane fractions of adipocytes from 6- (FR-6) and 24- (FR-24) month-old Fischer rats. Ageing had no effect on basal 30MG (12±4 vs 13±3 fmol/5 × 104 cells, means ± s.e.m.); in contrast, in FR-24 rats insulin-stimulated 30MG was markedly decreased by 43% when compared with that in FR-6 rats (158±14 vs 90±8 fmol/5 × 104 cells; P < 0·01). Insulin binding to adipocytes from FR-6 rats was 2·40±0·38% compared with 2·28±0·47% in FR-24 (P not significant). Moreover, ageing had no significant effect on IRKA, as determined by insulin-stimulated (0, 1, 4 and 500 ng insulin/ml) 32P-incorporation into histone 2B. In subcellular membrane fractions, low density microsomes and plasma membranes, glucose transporter numbers were determined using [3H]cytochalasin B binding and immunodetection using an antiserum against the C-terminal peptide of the hepatoma-G2-glucose transporter. Cytochalasin B binding revealed that in the basal state the intracellular pool of glucose transporters was depleted in FR-24 by about 39% compared with low density microsomes from FR-6: (48·6±7·2 vs 29·8±5·5 pmol/mg membrane protein; P < 0·01). In consequence, in FR-24 there were fewer glucose transporters available for insulin-induced translocation to the plasma membrane (insulin-treated plasma membrane: 23·9±4·2 (FR-6) vs 14·4±3·1 (FR-24) pmol/mg membrane protein; P < 0·01). These results were confirmed by immunoblotting.

In conclusion, (1) maximal insulin-stimulated 30MG was decreased by 43% in cells from FR-24 rats compared with those from FR-6 rats, while basal 30MG was similar in both groups, (2) neither insulin binding nor IRKA were significantly altered in cells from FR-24 rats, and (3) impaired insulin-stimulated 30MG was associated with reduced numbers of glucose transporters in the plasma membrane as a consequence of a depletion of the intracellular pool of glucose transporters in cells from FR-24 rats.

Journal of Endocrinology (1990) 126, 99–107

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M Schütt, J Zhou, M Meier, and H H Klein

The mechanism by which chronic treatment with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)-1 protease inhibitors leads to a deterioration of glucose metabolism appears to involve insulin resistance, and may also involve impaired insulin secretion. Here we investigated the long-term effects of HIV-1 protease inhibitors on glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from beta cells and explored whether altered insulin secretion might be related to altered insulin signaling. INS-1 cells were incubated for 48 h with different concentrations of amprenavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir or saquinavir, stimulated with 20 mM d-glucose, and insulin determined in the supernatant. To evaluate insulin signaling, cells were stimulated with 100 nM insulin for 2 min, and insulin-receptor substrate (IRS)-1, -2 and Akt phosphorylation determined. Incubation for 48 h with ritonavir, nelfinavir and saquinavir resulted in impaired glucose-induced insulin secretion at 2.5, 5 and 5 μM respectively, whereas amprenavir or indinavir had no effects even at 20 and 100 μM respectively. The impaired insulin secretion by ritonavir, nelfinavir and saquinavir was associated with decreased insulin-stimulated IRS-2 phosphorylation, and, for nelfinavir and saquinavir, with decreased insulin-stimulated IRS-1 and Thr308-Akt phosphorylation. No such effects on signaling were observed with amprenavir or indinavir. In conclusion, certain HIV-1 protease inhibitors, such as ritonavir, nelfinavir and saquinavir, not only induce peripheral insulin resistance, but also impair glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from beta cells. With respect to the long-term effect on beta-cell function there appear to be differences between the protease inhibitors that may be clinically relevant. Finally, these effects on insulin secretion after a 48 h incubation with protease inhibitor were associated with a reduction of the insulin-stimulated phosphorylation of insulin signaling parameters, particularly IRS-2, suggesting that protease inhibitor-induced alterations in the insulin signaling pathway may contribute to the impaired beta-cell function.

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T Grimmsmann, K Levin, MM Meyer, H Beck-Nielsen, and HH Klein

We explored whether the delay that occurs between a rise in plasma insulin and the increase of glucose disposal occurs before, at, or downstream of steps that are believed to be part of the insulin signaling cascade. Skeletal muscle biopsies were obtained from 16 nondiabetic subjects before, and 20 and 180 min after plasma insulin levels had been augmented in euglycemic hyperinsulinemic glucose clamps. Although plasma insulin had reached 98% of its final concentration within 10 min, insulin receptor kinase (IRK) activity, p85 associated with insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1), IRS-1-associated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) activity, and Thr(308)-protein kinase B (PKB) phosphorylation in the muscle biopsies at 20 min had reached only 60, 48, 34 and 47% respectively of those at 180 min. This suggests a delay before the level of IRK and little or no delay between IRK and PKB activation. The observation that glycogen synthase activity and glucose disposal at 20 min had both only reached 25% of the respective values at 180 min suggests an additional delay downstream of the investigated signaling steps.

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Markus Meier, Harald H Klein, Jan Kramer, Maren Drenckhan, and Morten Schütt

Calpains are a family of non-lysosomal cytoplasmatic cysteine proteases. Since calpain 10 (CAPN10), a member of the calpain family of proteases, has been found to represent a putative diabetes susceptibility gene, it was argued that calpains may be involved in the development of type 2 diabetes. The functional role of calpains in insulin signaling and/or insulin action is, however, not clear. We investigated the effects of the calpains 1 and 2 inhibitor PD151746 on insulin signaling and insulin action in human hepatoma G2 cells (HepG2). HepG2 cells were incubated without (−PD) or with (+PD) 5.33 μmol/l PD151746 for different times and then stimulated with 100 nmol/l insulin for 0 (t 0), 5 (t 5), 15 (t 15), 30 (t 30), 45 (t 45), and 60 (t 60) min. After solubilization of the cells, insulin receptor kinase activity, tyrosine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1), IRS-1-associated phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3-kinase), PI3-kinase activity, Thr308 phosphorlyation of Akt, amount of protein tyrosine phosphatase-ε (PTPε), and glycogen synthase activity were determined. Incubation with PD151746 resulted in a significant reduction of insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis compared with cells not pre-incubated with the calpain inhibitor (−PD: t 0, 4.90 ± 1.20%; t 5, 5.90 ± 1.02%; t 15, 5.29 ± 0.95%; t 30, 5.60 ± 1.10%; t 45, 5.52 ± 0.90%; t 60, 5.67 ± 0.97%;+PD: t 0, 4.56 ± 1.10%; t 5, 6.16 ± 1.05%; t 15, 7.52 ± 1.09%; t 30, 7.68 ± 1.10%; t 45, 8.28 ± 0.89%; t 60, 7.69 ± 0.98%; P < 0.05). Incubation with PD151746 significantly increased the protein amount of PTPε in the cells after 12 h (−PD: t 1, 0.85 ± 0.18 RU (Relative unit); t 8, 0.87 ± 0.18 RU; t 12, 0.9 ± 0.13 RU; +PD: t 1, 0.92 ± 0.21 RU; t 8, 1.1 ± 0.15 RU; t 12, 1.34 ± 0.16 RU; P < 0.05). Calpain inhibition with PD151746 had no effect on the insulin stimulation of the investigated insulin signaling parameters. These results in HepG2 cells suggest that calpains play a role in the hepatic regulation of insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis independent of the PI3-kinase/Akt signaling pathway.

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S Matthaei, B Trost, A Hamann, C Kausch, H Benecke, H Greten, W Höppner, and H H Klein


To examine the effect of thyroid hormone status on insulin action in isolated rat adipocytes, age- and weight-matched Sprague–Dawley rats were rendered hypothyroid (h) by i.p. injection of 2 mCi [131I]/kg. Another group of rats was made hyperthyroid (H) by i.p. injection of 500 μg l-thyroxine/kg/day for 7 days. The T4 levels in experimental groups were: controls, 33·5±0·95; h, 12·3±1·59: H, 133·2±8·8 μg/l. Adipocytes were isolated and 3-O-methylglucose transport (GT), insulin binding (IB) and insulin receptor kinase activity (IRKA) were determined. Subcellular membrane fractions (low-density microsomes, plasma membranes) were prepared and GLUT1 and GLUT4 glucose transporter immunodetected.

Hyperthyroidism caused no significant effect on either IB or IRKA but increased insulin-stimulated GT by 43·6%. This increase of GT was associated with an increase of primarily GLUT4 glucose transporters. Hypothyroidism was associated with both increased insulin receptor affinity and enhanced IRKA. Despite a marked reduction of primarily GLUT4 glucose transporters, basal and insulinstimulated GT was not reduced when compared with control.

These results suggest that (1) in hyperthyroidism, increased insulin-stimulated glucose transport is associated with an increase of primarily GLUT4 glucose transporters, which may be responsible for the increment of peripheral glucose utilization in hyperthyroidism, and (2) the effect of hypothyroidism on insulin action in adipocytes is characterized by a state of increased insulin sensitivity, as indicated by the increase in insulin receptor affinity and tyrosine kinase activity. Despite the marked reduction of primarily GLUT4 glucose transporters, insulin-stimulated glucose transport is not diminished, which may suggest that functional activity of plasma membrane glucose transporters is enhanced in hypothyroidism.

Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 144, 347–357

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A. Klein, B. Bruser, J. B. Robinson, P. H. Pinkerton, and A. Malkin


We have observed previously that the rate of cortisol catabolism by lymphocytes (CCL) was indicative of the vulnerability of these cells to cortisol. We attempted to ascertain whether cortisol-sensitive lymphocytes (e.g. thymocytes) metabolize cortisol at a different rate from cortisol-resistant cells and whether lymphocytes in which cortisol catabolism is inhibited become cortisol sensitive. The work was facilitated by the observation that an ethanol extract plasma from patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and AIDS-related complex (ARC) had the capacity to inhibit CCL.

The capacity of thymocytes to metabolize cortisol was found to be 11 times lower than that of peripheral lymphocytes. Inhibition of CCL with an ethanol extract of plasma from AIDS/ARC patients made the cells vulnerable to cortisol, causing them to die at a rate seven times greater than that of control samples. It is suggested that these findings may have important implications with regard to the nature of lymphocyte depletion in AIDS/ARC patients or in people at risk of developing the syndrome.

J. Endocr. (1987) 112, 259–264

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J Hoppmann, N Perwitz, B Meier, M Fasshauer, D Hadaschik, H Lehnert, and J Klein

Obesity is associated with chronic inflammation. Pro-inflammatory adipokines may promote metabolic disorders and cardiovascular morbidity. However, the key mechanisms leading to obesity-related inflammation are poorly understood. The corticosteroid metabolism in adipose tissue plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of the metabolic syndrome. Both the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) mediate corticosteroid action in adipose tissue. The significance of the interplay of these receptors in mediating an inflammatory adipokine response is virtually unexplored. In the present study, we investigated the differential roles of the GR and MR in controlling the key adipose tissue functions including inflammatory adipokine expression and adipogenesis using selective stimulation with receptor agonists, acute receptor knockdown via RNA interference and newly generated knockout adipose cell lines. Selective GR stimulation of white adipocytes with dexamethasone inhibited the expression of interleukin 6 (IL6), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP1 or CCL2 as listed in the MGI Database), tumour necrosis factor-α, chemerin and leptin. By contrast, selective MR stimulation with aldosterone promoted the expression of IL6, plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, chemerin and leptin. Furthermore, in the presence of an acute GR knockdown as well as in GR knockout adipocytes, corticosterone increased the gene expression of the pro-inflammatory adipokines IL6 and MCP1. Whereas GR knockout adipocytes displayed a mildly impaired adipogenesis during early differentiation, MR knockout cells completely failed to accumulate lipids. Taken together, our data demonstrate a critical role for the balance between gluco- and mineralocorticoid action in determining adipocyte responses implicated in obesity-associated inflammation and cardiovascular complications.

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Johannes Klein, Sören Westphal, Daniel Kraus, Britta Meier, Nina Perwitz, Volker Ott, Mathias Fasshauer, and H Harald Klein

Metformin is an anti-diabetic drug with anorexigenic properties. The precise cellular mechanisms of its action are not entirely understood. Adipose tissue has recently been recognized as an important endocrine organ that is pivotal for the regulation of insulin resistance and energy homeostasis. Due to its thermogenic capacity brown adipose tissue contributes to the regulation of energy metabolism and is an attractive target tissue for pharmacological approaches to treating insulin resistance and obesity. Leptin is the prototypic adipocyte-derived hormone inducing a negative energy balance. We investigated effects of metformin on adipocyte metabolism, signalling, and leptin secretion in a brown adipocyte model. Metformin acutely stimulated p44/p42 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase in a dose- (3.2-fold at 1 mmol/l, P< 0.05) as well as time-dependent (3.8-fold at 5 min, P< 0.05) manner. This stimulation was highly selective since phosphorylation of intermediates in the stress kinase, janus kinase (JAK)–signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT), and phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase signalling pathways such as p38 MAP kinase, STAT3, and Akt was unaltered. Furthermore, chronic metformin treatment for 12 days dose-dependently inhibited leptin secretion by 35% and 75% at 500 μmol/l and 1 mmol/l metformin respectively (P< 0.01). This reduction was not caused by alterations in adipocyte differentiation. Moreover, the impairment in leptin secretion by metformin was reversible within 48 h after removal of the drug. Pharmacological inhibition of p44/p42 MAP kinase prevented the metformin-induced negative effect on leptin secretion. Taken together, our data demonstrate direct acute effects of metformin on adipocyte signalling and endocrine function with robust inhibition of leptin secretion. They suggest a selective molecular mechanism that may contribute to the anorexigenic effect of this antidiabetic compound.

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Jennifer H Stern, Gordon I Smith, Shiuwei Chen, Roger H Unger, Samuel Klein, and Philipp E Scherer

Hyperglucagonemia, a hallmark in obesity and insulin resistance promotes hepatic glucose output, exacerbating hyperglycemia and thus predisposing to the development type 2 diabetes. As such, glucagon signaling is a key target for new therapeutics to manage insulin resistance. We evaluated glucagon homeostasis in lean and obese mice and people. In lean mice, fasting for 24 h caused a rise in glucagon. In contrast, a decrease in serum glucagon compared to baseline was observed in diet-induced obese mice between 8 and 24 h of fasting. Fasting decreased serum insulin in both lean and obese mice. Accordingly, the glucagon:insulin ratio was unaffected by fasting in obese mice but increased in lean mice. Re-feeding (2 h) restored hyperglucagonemia in obese mice. Pancreatic perfusion studies confirm that fasting (16 h) decreases pancreatic glucagon secretion in obese mice. Consistent with our findings in the mouse, a mixed meal increased serum glucagon and insulin concentrations in obese humans, both of which decreased with time after a meal. Consequently, fasting and re-feeding less robustly affected glucagon:insulin ratios in obese compared to lean participants. The glucoregulatory disturbance in obesity may be driven by inappropriate regulation of glucagon by fasting and a static glucagon:insulin ratio.

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K Alexander H Iwen, Oezge Senyaman, Arne Schwartz, Maren Drenckhan, Britta Meier, Dirk Hadaschik, and Johannes Klein

The melanocortin (MC) system is a pivotal component of the hypothalamo-pituitary–adrenal (HPA) stress axis and plays an important role in the pathogenesis of obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Adipose dysfunction is implicated in the pathogenesis of these disorders. We investigated direct ACTH effects on adipose functions in immortalised murine white and brown adipocytes. MC receptor types 2 and 5 were expressed at the mRNA and protein levels and were strongly up-regulated during differentiation. Chronic ACTH stimulation did not affect adipogenesis. Insulin-induced glucose uptake in white adipocytes was acutely and transiently reduced by 45% upon ACTH treatment. Visfatin and adiponectin gene expression was reduced by about 50% in response to ACTH, while interleukin-6 (IL-6) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) mRNA levels were acutely up-regulated by 2100 and 60% respectively. Moreover, IL-6 secretion was increased by 1450% within 4 h of ACTH treatment. In brown adipocytes, stimulation with ACTH caused a 690% increase in uncoupling protein (UCP)-1 mRNA levels within 8 h, followed by a 470% increase in UCP-1 protein concentrations after 24 h. Consistently, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphorylation was acutely increased by 1800% in response to ACTH stimulation, and selective inhibition of p38 MAPK abolished the ACTH-mediated UCP-1 protein increase. Taken together, ACTH acutely promotes an insulin-resistant, pro-inflammatory state and transiently enhances energy combustion. In conditions characterised by a dysregulation of the HPA stress axis such as the metabolic syndrome, direct MC interaction with adipocytes may contribute to dysregulated energy balance, insulin resistance and cardiometabolic complications.