Prolonged fasting-induced metabolic signatures in human skeletal muscle of lean and obese men
Obesity is associated with insulin resistance and metabolic inflexibility in skeletal muscle.
Insulin resistance is a well-known physiological adaptation to prolonged fasting in healthy skeletal muscle. Obesity is associated with insulin resistance and metabolic inflexibility in skeletal muscle, and a pronounced increase in the risk of metabolic complications. Under the hypothesis that the metabolic traits of insulin resistance associated with prolonged fasting are different from insulin resistance associated with obesity, we examined nine obese and nine lean participants during 12 and 72h of fasting, respectively. Insulin resistance in obese participants was associated with impaired insulin signaling, and reduced levels of glucose-6-phosphate and TCA-cycle intermediates. 72h of fasting in lean participants reduced insulin-stimulated glucose uptake to levels similar to obese participants fasted for 12h. This was associated with increased lipid oxidation, but not accumulation of diacylglycerol or acylcarnitines and impairment of insulin signaling. Prolonged fasting was associated with pronounced increases in β-hydroxybutyrate and β- hydroxybutyrylcarnitine levels in skeletal muscle suggesting augmented ketone body metabolism. Fasting induced insulin resistance may be a consequence of substrate competition. The underlying mechanism behind insulin resistance in obesity is thus not comparable to the physiological adaptations in skeletal muscle induced by prolonged fasting in lean participants.
In conclusion, the metabolic signatures in human skeletal muscle during acute and chronic insulin resistance reveal distinct differences. Impaired insulin signaling in skeletal muscle may subserve insulin resistance in obesity, whereas insulin resistance associated with prolonged fasting is more likely caused by substrate competition. Thus, the pathogenesis of insulin resistance in human participants is context specific, which most likely also determines its clinical significance.