Decreased gene expression of insulin signaling genes in insulin sensitive tissues of obese cats

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Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) animal models have provided ample opportunity for investigating pathogenesis, as well as to evaluate novel treatment and prevention options for the disease. Because the domestic cat shares a similar environment with humans, it is also confronted with many similar risk factors for diabetes, such as physical inactivity and obesity. Obesity is a significant risk factor for diabetes in cats, and as such, the domestic cat may serve as an ideal model for investigating obesity induced insulin resistance. This study determined changes in insulin signaling genes within insulin sensitive tissues of obese felines. Quantitative RT-PCR was performed to determine mRNA levels of three important insulin signaling genes which have been implicated with insulin resistance: insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1, IRS-2, and phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3-K) p85α. Obese cats had significantly lower IRS-2 and PI3-K p85α mRNA levels in liver and skeletal muscle as compared to control cats. This down regulation of insulin signaling genes in obese cats mirrors that of obese humans and rodents suffering from insulin resistance. Interestingly, preprandial blood tests indicated that our obese cats were no different from control cats with regards to glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, thus indicating that the obese cats used in our study had a moderate level of obesity. Therefore, insulin signaling gene alterations were occurring in insulin sensitive tissues of moderately obese felines before glucose intolerance was clinically evident. As such, the monitoring of key insulin signaling genes may have some important diagnostic value to determine the risk level and degree of obesity induced insulin resistance.

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