, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 457-467,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 15 Oct 2011

Fat-induced membrane cholesterol accrual provokes cortical filamentous actin destabilisation and glucose transport dysfunction in skeletal muscle

Abstract

Aims/hypothesis

Diminished cortical filamentous actin (F-actin) has been implicated in skeletal muscle insulin resistance, yet the mechanism(s) is unknown. Here we tested the hypothesis that changes in membrane cholesterol could be a causative factor, as organised F-actin structure emanates from cholesterol-enriched raft microdomains at the plasma membrane.

Methods

Skeletal muscle samples from high-fat-fed animals and insulin-sensitive and insulin-resistant human participants were evaluated. The study also used L6 myotubes to directly determine the impact of fatty acids (FAs) on membrane/cytoskeletal variables and insulin action.

Results

High-fat-fed insulin-resistant animals displayed elevated levels of membrane cholesterol and reduced F-actin structure compared with normal chow-fed animals. Moreover, human muscle biopsies revealed an inverse correlation between membrane cholesterol and whole-body glucose disposal. Palmitate-induced insulin-resistant myotubes displayed membrane cholesterol accrual and F-actin loss. Cholesterol lowering protected against the palmitate-induced defects, whereas characteristically measured defects in insulin signalling were not corrected. Conversely, cholesterol loading of L6 myotube membranes provoked a palmitate-like cytoskeletal/GLUT4 derangement. Mechanistically, we observed a palmitate-induced increase in O-linked glycosylation, an end-product of the hexosamine biosynthesis pathway (HBP). Consistent with HBP activity affecting the transcription of various genes, we observed an increase in Hmgcr, a gene that encodes 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl coenzyme A reductase, the rate-limiting enzyme in cholesterol synthesis. In line with increased HBP activity transcriptionally provoking a membrane cholesterol-based insulin-resistant state, HBP inhibition attenuated Hmgcr expression and prevented membrane cholesterol accrual, F-actin loss and GLUT4/glucose transport dysfunction.

Conclusions/interpretation

Our results suggest a novel cholesterolgenic-based mechanism of FA-induced membrane/cytoskeletal disorder and insulin resistance.