To identify molecules that contribute to insulin resistance, we compared the patterns of gene expression in skeletal muscle of the obese ob/ob mouse, a genetic model of obesity and severe insulin resistance, with that of its thin littermate (ob/+) using the mRNA differential display method. From about 9,000 cDNAs displayed, we found 12 differentially expressed in ob/ob mice skeletal muscle that could be recovered from the differential display gels and confirmed by Northern blot analysis and sequenced. Eight mRNAs were overexpressed in ob/ob muscle: Id2 (a negative regulator of the basic helix-loop-helix family of transcription factors), fast skeletal muscle troponin T, ribosomal protein L3, the integral protein of the peroxisomal membrane 22PMP, the mammalian homolog of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate synthase, an mRNA related to phosphatidylinositol-glycan-specific phospholipase D, and two unknown mRNAs. The level of overexpression of these mRNAs in skeletal muscle varied from a 500% increase to as little as a 25% increase. Two mRNAs were underexpressed 20-35%, including the f-subunit of mitochondrial ATP synthase and a retrovirus-related DNA. Two proteins with multiple transcripts, skeletal muscle alpha-tropomyosin and one for a repetitive sequence, showed a change in mRNA pattern of expression in the muscle of the ob/ob mouse. Because the primary genetic defect in the ob/ob mouse is known to be in the leptin gene, these data indicate how acquired alterations in gene expression of multiple classes of proteins may play a role in the complex pathogenesis of insulin resistance in obesity and diabetes.

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