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      Relationships Between Circulating Metabolic Intermediates and Insulin Action in Overweight to Obese, Inactive Men and Women


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          To determine whether circulating metabolic intermediates are related to insulin resistance and β-cell dysfunction in individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes.


          In 73 sedentary, overweight to obese, dyslipidemic individuals, insulin action was derived from a frequently sampled intravenous glucose tolerance test. Plasma concentrations of 75 amino acids, acylcarnitines, free fatty acids, and conventional metabolites were measured with a targeted, mass spectrometry–based platform. Principal components analysis followed by backward stepwise linear regression was used to explore relationships between measures of insulin action and metabolic intermediates.


          The 75 metabolic intermediates clustered into 19 factors comprising biologically related intermediates. A factor containing large neutral amino acids was inversely related to insulin sensitivity ( S I) ( R 2 = 0.26). A factor containing fatty acids was inversely related to the acute insulin response to glucose ( R 2 = 0.12). Both of these factors, age, and a factor containing medium-chain acylcarnitines and glucose were inversely and independently related to the disposition index (DI) ( R 2 = 0.39). Sex differences were found for metabolic predictors of S I and DI.


          In addition to the well-recognized risks for insulin resistance, elevated concentrations of large, neutral amino acids were independently associated with insulin resistance. Fatty acids were inversely related to the pancreatic response to glucose. Both large neutral amino acids and fatty acids were related to an appropriate pancreatic response, suggesting that these metabolic intermediates might play a role in the progression to type 2 diabetes, one by contributing to insulin resistance and the other to pancreatic failure. These intermediates might exert sex-specific effects on insulin action.

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          Most cited references 21

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          Mechanisms of pancreatic beta-cell death in type 1 and type 2 diabetes: many differences, few similarities.

          Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are characterized by progressive beta-cell failure. Apoptosis is probably the main form of beta-cell death in both forms of the disease. It has been suggested that the mechanisms leading to nutrient- and cytokine-induced beta-cell death in type 2 and type 1 diabetes, respectively, share the activation of a final common pathway involving interleukin (IL)-1beta, nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB, and Fas. We review herein the similarities and differences between the mechanisms of beta-cell death in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In the insulitis lesion in type 1 diabetes, invading immune cells produce cytokines, such as IL-1beta, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and interferon (IFN)-gamma. IL-1beta and/or TNF-alpha plus IFN-gamma induce beta-cell apoptosis via the activation of beta-cell gene networks under the control of the transcription factors NF-kappaB and STAT-1. NF-kappaB activation leads to production of nitric oxide (NO) and chemokines and depletion of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) calcium. The execution of beta-cell death occurs through activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, via triggering of ER stress and by the release of mitochondrial death signals. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of glucose and free fatty acids (FFAs) causes beta-cell dysfunction and may induce beta-cell apoptosis in type 2 diabetes. Exposure to high glucose has dual effects, triggering initially "glucose hypersensitization" and later apoptosis, via different mechanisms. High glucose, however, does not induce or activate IL-1beta, NF-kappaB, or inducible nitric oxide synthase in rat or human beta-cells in vitro or in vivo in Psammomys obesus. FFAs may cause beta-cell apoptosis via ER stress, which is NF-kappaB and NO independent. Thus, cytokines and nutrients trigger beta-cell death by fundamentally different mechanisms, namely an NF-kappaB-dependent mechanism that culminates in caspase-3 activation for cytokines and an NF-kappaB-independent mechanism for nutrients. This argues against a unifying hypothesis for the mechanisms of beta-cell death in type 1 and type 2 diabetes and suggests that different approaches will be required to prevent beta-cell death in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
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            Plasma amino acid levels and insulin secretion in obesity.

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              A sustained increase in plasma free fatty acids impairs insulin secretion in nondiabetic subjects genetically predisposed to develop type 2 diabetes.

              Acute elevations in free fatty acids (FFAs) stimulate insulin secretion, but prolonged lipid exposure impairs beta-cell function in both in vitro studies and in vivo animal studies. In humans data are limited to short-term (< or =48 h) lipid infusion studies and have led to conflicting results. We examined insulin secretion and action during a 4-day lipid infusion in healthy normal glucose tolerant subjects with (FH+ group, n = 13) and without (control subjects, n = 8) a family history of type 2 diabetes. Volunteers were admitted twice to the clinical research center and received, in random order, a lipid or saline infusion. On days 1 and 2, insulin and C-peptide concentration were measured as part of a metabolic profile after standardized mixed meals. Insulin secretion in response to glucose was assessed with a +125 mg/dl hyperglycemic clamp on day 3. On day 4, glucose turnover was measured with a euglycemic insulin clamp with [3-3H]glucose. Day-long plasma FFA concentrations with lipid infusion were increased within the physiological range, to levels seen in type 2 diabetes (approximately 500-800 micromol/l). Lipid infusion had strikingly opposite effects on insulin secretion in the two groups. After mixed meals, day-long plasma C-peptide levels increased with lipid infusion in control subjects but decreased in the FH+ group (+28 vs. -30%, respectively, P < 0.01). During the hyperglycemic clamp, lipid infusion enhanced the insulin secretion rate (ISR) in control subjects but decreased it in the FH+ group (first phase: +75 vs. -60%, P < 0.001; second phase: +25 vs. -35%, P < 0.04). When the ISR was adjusted for insulin resistance (ISRRd = ISR / [1/Rd], where Rd is the rate of insulin-stimulated glucose disposal), the inadequate beta-cell response in the FH+ group was even more evident. Although ISRRd was not different between the two groups before lipid infusion, in the FH+ group, lipid infusion reduced first- and second-phase ISR(Rd) to 25 and 42% of that in control subjects, respectively (both P < 0.001 vs. control subjects). Lipid infusion in the FH+ group (but not in control subjects) also caused severe hepatic insulin resistance with an increase in basal endogenous glucose production (EGP), despite an elevation in fasting insulin levels, and impaired suppression of EGP to insulin. In summary, in individuals who are genetically predisposed to type 2 diabetes, a sustained physiological increase in plasma FFA impairs insulin secretion in response to mixed meals and to intravenous glucose, suggesting that in subjects at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, beta-cell lipotoxicity may play an important role in the progression from normal glucose tolerance to overt hyperglycemia.

                Author and article information

                Diabetes Care
                Diabetes Care
                Diabetes Care
                American Diabetes Association
                September 2009
                5 June 2009
                : 32
                : 9
                : 1678-1683
                1Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina;
                2Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina;
                3Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina;
                4Department of Exercise and Sports Science and the Human Performance Laboratory, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina;
                5Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina;
                6Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Kim M. Huffman, huffm007@ 123456mc.duke.edu .
                © 2009 by the American Diabetes Association.

                Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ for details.

                Funded by: National Institutes of Health
                Award ID: R01HL-57354
                Original Research

                Endocrinology & Diabetes


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