The aim of these studies was to investigate whether insulin resistance is primary to skeletal muscle. Myoblasts were isolated from muscle biopsies of 8 lean insulin-resistant and 8 carefully matched insulin-sensitive subjects (metabolic clearance rates as determined by euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp: 5.8 +/- 0.5 vs. 12.3 +/- 1.7 ml x kg(-1) x min(-1), respectively; P < or = 0.05) and differentiated to myotubes. In these cells, insulin stimulation of glucose uptake, glycogen synthesis, insulin receptor (IR) kinase activity, and insulin receptor substrate 1-associated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) activity were measured. Furthermore, insulin activation of protein kinase B (PKB) was compared with immunoblotting of serine residues at position 473. Basal glucose uptake (1.05 +/- 0.07 vs. 0.95 +/- 0.07 relative units, respectively; P = 0.49) and basal glycogen synthesis (1.02 +/- 0.11 vs. 0.98 +/- 0.11 relative units, respectively; P = 0.89) were not different in myotubes from insulin-resistant and insulin-sensitive subjects. Maximal insulin responsiveness of glucose uptake (1.35 +/- 0.03-fold vs. 1.41 +/- 0.05-fold over basal for insulin-resistant and insulin-sensitive subjects, respectively; P = 0.43) and glycogen synthesis (2.00 +/- 0.13-fold vs. 2.10 +/- 0.16-fold over basal for insulin-resistant and insulin-sensitive subjects, respectively; P = 0.66) were also not different. Insulin stimulation (1 nmol/l) of IR kinase and PI 3-kinase were maximal within 5 min (approximately 8- and 5-fold over basal, respectively), and insulin activation of PKB was maximal within 15 min (approximately 3.5-fold over basal). These time kinetics were not significantly different between groups. In summary, our data show that insulin action and signaling in cultured skeletal muscle cells from normoglycemic lean insulin-resistant subjects is not different from that in cells from insulin-sensitive subjects. This suggests an important role of environmental factors in the development of insulin resistance in skeletal muscle.

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