Exogenous Insulin Infusion Can Decrease Atherosclerosis in Diabetic Rodents by Improving Lipids, Inflammation, and Endothelial Function

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The objective of this study is to evaluate whether exogenously induced hyperinsulinemia may increase the development of atherosclerosis.

Approach and Results—

Hyperinsulinemia, induced by exogenous insulin implantation in high-fat fed (60% fat HFD) apolipoprotein E–deficient mice (ApoE−/−) mice, exhibited insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and hyperinsulinemia. Atherosclerosis was measured by the accumulation of fat, macrophage, and extracellular matrix in the aorta. After 8 weeks on HFD, ApoE−/− mice were subcutaneously implanted with control (sham) or insulin pellet, and phlorizin, a sodium glucose cotransporters inhibitor (1/2)inhibitor, for additional 8 weeks. Intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test showed that plasma glucose levels were lower and insulin and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) levels were 5.3- and 3.3-fold higher, respectively, in insulin-implanted compared with sham-treated ApoE−/− mice. Plasma triglyceride, cholesterol, and lipoprotein levels were decreased in mice with insulin implant, in parallel with increased lipoprotein lipase activities. Atherosclerotic plaque by en face and complexity staining showed significant reductions of fat deposits and expressions of vascular adhesion molecule-1, tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin 6, and macrophages in arterial wall while exhibiting increased activation of pAKT and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (P<0.05) comparing insulin-implanted versus sham HFD ApoE−/− mice. No differences were observed in atherosclerotic plaques between phlorizin-treated and sham HFD ApoE−/− mice, except phlorizin significantly lowered plasma glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels while increased glucosuria. Endothelial function was improved only by insulin treatment through endothelial nitric oxide synthase/nitric oxide activations and reduced proinflammatory (M1) and increased anti-inflammatory (M2) macrophages, which were inhibited by endothelial nitric oxide synthase inhibitor.


Exogenous insulin decreased atherosclerosis by lowering inflammatory cytokines, macrophages, and plasma lipids in HFD-induced hyperlipidemia, insulin resistant and mildly diabetic ApoE−/− mice.

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