Inhibition of neutral sphingomyelinases in skeletal muscle attenuates fatty-acid induced defects in metabolism and stress.

PMID 24892004


Chronic metabolic overload leads to insulin resistance in a variety of tissues. It has been shown that exposure to saturated fatty acid palmitate can cause insulin resistance in skeletal muscle cells. Fatty acid induced synthesis of ceramide is considered to be one of the major causes for insulin resistance. Both de novo synthesis and sphingomyelin hydrolysis by sphingomyelinase are implicated for ceramide generation. Aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of neutral sphingomyelinase (nSMase) inhibition on saturated fatty acid induced lipotoxicity and insulin resistance in skeletal muscle myotubes. Treatment of saturated fatty acid (palmitate) but not unsaturated fatty acid (oleate) caused an up-regulation in expression of various nSMase genes which are associated with ceramide synthesis through the salvage pathway. Inhibition of nSMase by a pharmacological inhibitor (GW4869) partially reverted the palmitate induced insulin resistance in C2C12 myotubes. Inhibition of nSMase improved metabolic functions of myotubes as measured by improved oxidative capacity in terms of increased mitochondrial number, PGC1α expression and ATP levels with concomitant decrease in intramyocellular triglyceride levels. Palmitate induced inflammatory response was also reduced by nSMase inhibitor. GW4869 treatment reduced palmitate induced oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum stress and improved cell survival. In this study, we provide evidences that inhibition of nSMase can protect skeletal muscles from saturated fatty acid induced insulin resistance, metabolic dysfunction, cellular stress and inflammation.