Numerous studies have suggested that ovarian hormones are able to modulate insulin sensitivity, but their exact role remains unclear. We have investigated whether different doses of 17beta-oestradiol mediate changes in insulin sensitivity and if these changes could be related to modifications of insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1). Female rats were ovariectomized and later separated into three groups: untreated; treated with a dose of 17beta-oestradiol sufficient to reproduce gestational plasma concentrations of 17beta-oestradiol (group E); and treated with a dose 100 times greater than that given to group E (group E2). A euglycaemic-hyperinsulinaemic clamp was used to measure insulin sensitivity. Changes in IRS-1 were analysed by Western blotting and RT-PCR assays. In group E we found a decrease in insulin sensitivity between days 11 and 16 of treatment as in late gestation, whereas in the untreated group and group E2, development of insulin resistance was observed throughout the treatment. In contrast, whereas in group E2 insulin resistance throughout the hormonal treatment was related to diminished expression and phosphorylation of IRS-1, in group E the decrease in insulin sensitivity between days 11 and 16 of treatment was not related to a decrease in IRS-1 expression. Our results suggest that the effects of oestradiol on insulin sensitivity were dose-dependent and that the insulin resistance associated with a high dose of 17beta-oestradiol was related to downregulation of IRS-1 expression.
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