Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) reduce insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes by increasing peripheral uptake of glucose, and they bind to and activate the transcriptional factor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-gamma). Studies have suggested that TZD-induced activation of PPAR-gamma correlates with antidiabetic action, but the mechanism by which the activated PPAR-gamma is involved in reducing insulin resistance is not known. To examine whether activation of PPAR-gamma directly correlates with antidiabetic activities, we compared the effects of 4 TZDs (troglitazone, pioglitazone, BRL-49653, and a new derivative, NC-2100) on the activation of PPAR-gamma in a reporter assay, transcription of the target genes, adipogenesis, plasma glucose and triglyceride levels, and body weight using obese KKAy mice. There were 10- to 30-fold higher concentrations of NC-2100 required for maximal activation of PPAR-gamma in a reporter assay system, and only high concentrations of NC-2100 weakly induced transcription of the PPAR-gamma but not PPAR-alpha target genes in a whole mouse and adipogenesis of cultured 3T3L1 cells, which indicates that NC-2100 is a weak PPAR-gamma activator. However, low concentrations of NC-2100 efficiently lowered plasma glucose levels in KKAy obese mice. These results strongly suggest that TZD-induced activation of PPAR-gamma does not directly correlate with antidiabetic (glucose-lowering) action. Furthermore, NC-2100 caused the smallest body weight increase of the 4 TZDs, which may be partly explained by the finding that NC-2100 efficiently induces uncoupling protein (UCP)-2 mRNA and significantly induces UCP1 mRNA in white adipose tissue (WAT). NC-2100 induced UCP1 efficiently in mesenteric WAT and less efficiently in subcutaneous WAT, although pioglitazone and troglitazone also slightly induced UCP1 only in mesenteric WAT. These characteristics of NC-2100 should be beneficial for humans with limited amounts of brown adipose tissue.

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