Tumor necrosis factor α-mediated insulin resistance, but not dedifferentiation, is abrogated by MEK1/2 inhibitors in 3T3-L1 adipocytes

J. A. Engelman, A. H. Berg, R. Y. Lewis, M. P. Lisanti, P. E. Scherer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) has been implicated as a contributing mediator of insulin resistance observed in pathophysiological conditions such as obesity, cancer-induced cachexia, and bacterial infections. Previous studies have demonstrated that TNFα confers insulin resistance by promoting phosphorylation of serine residues on insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1), thereby diminishing subsequent insulin-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of IRS-1. However, little is known about which signaling molecules are involved in this process in adipocytes and about the temporal sequence of events that ultimately leads to TNFα-stimulated IRS-1 serine phosphorylation. In this study, we demonstrate that specific inhibitors of the MAP kinase kinase (MEK)1/2-p42/44 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway restore insulin signaling to normal levels despite the presence of TNFα. Additional experiments show that MEK1/2 activity is required for TNFα-induced IRS-1 serine phosphorylation, thereby suggesting a mechanism by which these inhibitors restore insulin signaling. We observe that TNFα requires 2.5-4 h to markedly reduce insulin-triggered tyrosine phosphorylation of IRS-1 in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Although TNFα activates p42/44 MAP kinase, maximal stimulation is observed within 10-30 min. To our surprise, p42/44 activity returns to basal levels well before IRS-1 serine phosphorylation and insulin resistance are observed. These activation kinetics suggest a mechanism of p42/44 action more complicated than a direct phosphorylation of IRS-1 triggered by the early spike of TNFα-induced p42/44 activity. Chronic TNFα treatment (>> 72 h) causes adipocyte dedifferentiation, as evidenced by the loss of triglycerides and down-regulation of adipocyte-specific markers. We observe that this longer term TNFα-mediated dedifferentiation effect utilizes alternative, p42/44 MAP kinase-independent intracellular pathways. This study suggests that TNFα-mediated insulin resistance, but not adipocyte dedifferentiation, is mediated by the MEK1/2-p42/44 MAP kinase pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1557-1569
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


Dive into the research topics of 'Tumor necrosis factor α-mediated insulin resistance, but not dedifferentiation, is abrogated by MEK1/2 inhibitors in 3T3-L1 adipocytes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this