Molecular markers of obesity and diabetes

Swagell, Christopher Dean (2007) Molecular markers of obesity and diabetes. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Recently it has been shown that the consumption of a diet high in saturated fat is associated with impaired insulin sensitivity and increased incidence of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, diets that are high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), especially very long chain n-3 fatty acids (FAs), are protective against disease. However, the molecular mechanisms by which saturated FAs induce the insulin resistance and hyperglycaemia associated with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are not clearly defined.

It is possible that saturated FAs may act through alternative mechanisms compared to MUFA and PUFA to regulate of hepatic gene expression and metabolism. It is proposed that, like MUFA and PUFA, saturated FAs regulate the transcription of target genes. To test this hypothesis, hepatic gene expression analysis was undertaken in a human hepatoma cell line, Huh-7, after exposure to the saturated FA, palmitate. These experiments showed that palmitate is an effective regulator of gene expression for a wide variety of genes. A total of 162 genes were differentially expressed in response to palmitate. These changes not only affected the expression of genes related to nutrient transport and metabolism, they also extend to other cellular functions including, cytoskeletal architecture, cell growth, protein synthesis and oxidative stress response. In addition, this thesis has shown that palmitate exposure altered the expression patterns of several genes that have previously been identified in the literature as markers of risk of disease development, including CVD, hypertension, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The altered gene expression patterns associated with an increased risk of disease include apolipoprotein-B100 (apo-B100), apo-CIII, plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, insulin-like growth factor-I and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3. This thesis reports the first observation that palmitate directly signals in cultured human hepatocytes to regulate expression of genes involved in energy metabolism as well as other important genes.

Prolonged exposure to long-chain saturated FAs reduces glucose phosphorylation and glycogen synthesis in the liver. Decreased glucose metabolism leads to elevated rates of lipolysis, resulting in increased release of free FAs. Free FAs have a negative effect on insulin action on the liver, which in turn results in increased gluconeogenesis and systemic dyslipidaemia. It has been postulated that disruption of glucose transport and insulin secretion by prolonged excessive FA availability might be a non-genetic factor that has contributed to the staggering rise in prevalence of type 2 diabetes. As glucokinase (GK) is a key regulatory enzyme of hepatic glucose metabolism, changes in its activity may alter flux through the glycolytic and de novo lipogenic pathways and result in hyperglycaemia and ultimately insulin resistance. This thesis investigated the effects of saturated FA on the promoter activity of the glycolytic enzyme, GK, and various transcription factors that may influence the regulation of GK gene expression. These experiments have shown that the saturated FA, palmitate, is capable of decreasing GK promoter activity. In addition, quantitative real-time PCR has shown that palmitate incubation may also regulate GK gene expression through a known FA sensitive transcription factor, sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c (SREBP-1c), which upregulates GK transcription.

To parallel the investigations into the mechanisms of FA molecular signalling, further studies of the effect of FAs on metabolic pathway flux were performed. Although certain FAs reduce SREBP-1c transcription in vitro, it is unclear whether this will result in decreased GK activity in vivo where positive effectors of SREBP-1c such as insulin are also present. Under these conditions, it is uncertain if the inhibitory effects of FAs would be overcome by insulin. The effects of a combination of FAs, insulin and glucose on glucose phosphorylation and metabolism in cultured primary rat hepatocytes at concentrations that mimic those in the portal circulation after a meal was examined. It was found that total GK activity was unaffected by an increased concentration of insulin, but palmitate and eicosapentaenoic acid significantly lowered total GK activity in the presence of insulin. Despite the fact that total GK enzyme activity was reduced in response to FA incubation, GK enzyme translocation from the inactive, nuclear bound, to active, cytoplasmic state was unaffected. Interestingly, none of the FAs tested inhibited glucose phosphorylation or the rate of glycolysis when insulin is present. These results suggest that in the presence of insulin the levels of the active, unbound cytoplasmic GK are sufficient to buffer a slight decrease in GK enzyme activity and decreased promoter activity caused by FA exposure. Although a high fat diet has been associated with impaired hepatic glucose metabolism, there is no evidence from this thesis that FAs themselves directly modulate flux through the glycolytic pathway in isolated primary hepatocytes when insulin is also present.

Therefore, although FA affected expression of a wide range of genes, including GK, this did not affect glycolytic flux in the presence of insulin. However, it may be possible that a saturated FA-induced decrease in GK enzyme activity when combined with the onset of insulin resistance may promote the dys-regulation of glucose homeostasis and the subsequent development of hyperglycaemia, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

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ID Code: 35762
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Morris, Charles, van Daal, Angela, & Henly, D
Keywords: cDNA microarray analysis, gene expression, saturated fatty acid, palmitate, hepatocytes, glucokinase, microarray analysis, monounsaturated fatty acid, polyunsaturated fatty acid, oleate, eicosapentaenoic acid, human hepatic cell line, fatty acid signalling, fatty acids, glycolysis, insulin, primary rat hepatocytes
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 00:07
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:57

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