Volume 29 (2006) Issue 8 Pages 1532-1537
Membrane microdomains (lipid rafts) are now recognized as critical for proper compartmentalization of insulin signaling, but their role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance has not been investigated. Detergent-resistant membrane microdomains (DRMs), isolated in the low density fractions, are highly enriched in cholesterol, glycosphingolipids and various signaling molecules. TNFα induces insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes, but its mechanism of action is not fully understood. We have found a selective increase in the acidic glycosphingolipid ganglioside GM3 in 3T3-L1 adipocytes treated with TNFα, suggesting a specific function for GM3. We were able to extend these in vitro observations to living animals using obese Zucker fa/fa rats and ob/ob mice, in which the GM3 synthase mRNA levels in the white adipose tissues are significantly higher than in their lean controls. In the DRMs from TNFα-treated 3T3-L1 adipocytes, GM3 levels were doubled, compared to results in normal adipocytes. Additionally, insulin receptor (IR) accumulations in the DRMs were diminished, while caveolin and flotillin levels were unchanged. GM3 depletion was able to counteract the TNFα-induced inhibition of IR accumulation into DRMs. Together, these findings provide compelling evidence that in insulin resistance the insulin metabolic signaling defect can be attributed to a loss of IRs in the microdomains due to an accumulation of GM3.