Molecular metabolism

Suppressing hyperinsulinemia prevents obesity but causes rapid onset of diabetes in leptin-deficient Lepob/ob mice.

PMID 27818936


Hyperinsulinemia is commonly associated with obesity. Mice deficient in the adipose-derived hormone leptin (Lepob/ob) develop hyperinsulinemia prior to onset of obesity and glucose intolerance. Whether the excess of circulating insulin is a major contributor to obesity and impaired glucose homeostasis in Lepob/ob mice is unclear. It has been reported previously that diet-induced obesity in mice can be prevented by reducing insulin gene dosage. In the present study, we examined the effects of genetic insulin reduction in Lepob/ob mice on circulating insulin, body composition, and glucose homeostasis. Leptin expressing (Lepwt/wt) mice lacking 3 insulin alleles were crossed with Lepob/ob mice to generate Lepob/ob and Lepwt/wt littermates lacking 1 (Ins1+/+;Ins2+/-), 2 (Ins1+/+;Ins2-/-) or 3 (Ins1+/-;Ins2-/-) insulin alleles. Animals were assessed for body weight gain, body composition, glucose homeostasis, and islet morphology. We found that in young Lepob/ob mice, loss of 2 or 3 insulin alleles reduced plasma insulin levels by 75-95% and attenuated body weight gain by 50-90% compared to Ins1+/+;Ins2+/-;Lepob/ob mice. This corresponded with ∼30% and ∼50% reduced total body fat in Ins1+/+;Ins2-/-;Lepob/ob and Ins1+/-;Ins2-/-;Lepob/ob mice, respectively. Loss of 2 or 3 insulin alleles in young Lepob/ob mice resulted in onset of fasting hyperglycemia by 4 weeks of age, exacerbated glucose intolerance, and abnormal islet morphology. In contrast, loss of 1,2 or 3 insulin alleles in Lepwt/wt mice did not significantly alter plasma insulin levels, body weight, fat mass, fasting glycemia, or glucose tolerance. Taken together, our findings indicate that hyperinsulinemia is required for excess adiposity in Lepob/ob mice and sufficient insulin production is necessary to maintain euglycemia in the absence of leptin.