Microvascular dysfunction: An emerging pathway in the pathogenesis of obesity-related insulin resistance

  • Dennis M. J. Muris
  • Alfons J. H. M. Houben
  • Miranda T. Schram
  • Coen D. A. Stehouwer


The prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and its major risk factor, obesity, has reached epidemic proportions in Western society. How obesity leads to insulin resistance and subsequent T2DM is incompletely understood. It has been established that insulin can redirect blood flow in skeletal muscle from non-nutritive to nutritive capillary networks, without increasing total blood flow. This results in a net increase of the overall number of perfused nutritive capillary networks and thereby increases insulin-mediated glucose uptake by skeletal muscle. This process, referred to as functional (nutritive) capillary recruitment, has been shown to be endothelium-dependent and to require activation of the phosphatidylinositol-kinase (PI3K) pathway in the endothelial cell. Several studies have demonstrated that these processes are impaired in states of microvascular dysfunction. In obesity, changes in several adipokines are likely candidates to influence insulin signaling pathways in endothelial cells, thereby causing microvascular dysfunction. Microvascular dysfunction, in turn, impairs the timely access of glucose and insulin to their target tissues, and may therefore be an additional cause of insulin resistance. Thus, microvascular dysfunction may be a key feature in the development of obesity-related insulin resistance. In the present review, we will discuss the evidence for this emerging role for the microcirculation as a possible link between obesity and insulin resistance.


Microcirculation Type 2 diabetes mellitus Insulin resistance Endothelial dysfunction 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis M. J. Muris
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alfons J. H. M. Houben
    • 1
    • 2
  • Miranda T. Schram
    • 1
    • 2
  • Coen D. A. Stehouwer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Internal MedicineMaastricht University Medical Centre (MUMC+)Maastrichtthe Netherlands
  2. 2.Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM)Maastricht UniversityMaastrichtthe Netherlands

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