The FEBS journal

Mitochondrial dysfunction leads to impairment of insulin sensitivity and adiponectin secretion in adipocytes.

PMID 23253816


Adipocytes play an integrative role in the regulation of energy metabolism and glucose homeostasis in the human body. Functional defects in adipocytes may cause systemic disturbance of glucose homeostasis. Recent studies revealed mitochondrial abnormalities in the adipose tissue of patients with type 2 diabetes. In addition, patients with mitochondrial diseases usually manifest systemic metabolic disorder. However, it is unclear how mitochondrial dysfunction in adipocytes affects the regulation of glucose homeostasis. In this study, we induced mitochondrial dysfunction and overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by addition of respiratory inhibitors oligomycin A and antimycin A and by knockdown of mitochondrial transcription factor A (mtTFA), respectively. We found an attenuation of the insulin response as indicated by lower glucose uptake and decreased phosphorylation of Akt upon insulin stimulation of adipocytes with mitochondrial dysfunction. Furthermore, the expression of glucose transporter 4 (Glut4) and secretion of adiponectin were decreased in adipocytes with increased ROS generated by defective mitochondria. Moreover, the severity of insulin insensitivity was correlated with the extent of mitochondrial dysfunction. These results suggest that higher intracellular ROS levels elicited by mitochondrial dysfunction resulted in impairment of the function of adipocytes in the maintenance of glucose homeostasis through attenuation of insulin signaling, downregulation of Glut4 expression, and decrease in adiponectin secretion. Our findings substantiate the important role of mitochondria in the regulation of glucose homeostasis in adipocytes and also provide a molecular basis for the explanation of the manifestation of diabetes mellitus or insulin insensitivity in a portion of patients with mitochondrial diseases such as MELAS or MERRF syndrome.