High body iron stores are positively related to insulin resistance in humans, but the underlying mechanisms remain unresolved. Iron stimulates lipolysis in murine adipocytes in vitro, but the influence of iron stores on lipolytic rate invivo is unknown. Our aim was to determine if body iron stores are associated with lipolytic rate and whole-body insulin sensitivity in obese, pre-menopausal women. We studied 20 subjects with clinically-normal (20-200 ng/mL) plasma [ferritin], an index of body iron stores. Fatty acid rate of appearance into systemic circulation (FA Ra) was assessed by 13C-palmitate isotope dilution, insulin resistance was assessed by hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp, and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue protein expression was assessed via immunoblot. [Ferritin] was significantly (p < 0.01), positively correlated with FA Ra (r2 = 0.42), adipose hormone sensitive lipaseser660 phosphorylation (p-HSLser660, a marker of lipolytic activation in adipose tissue; r2 = 0.41), and whole-body insulin resistance (r2 = 0.33). Importantly, [ferritin] remained a significant, independent predictor for these parameters in multiple regression models including body mass index, plasma [adiponectin], and plasma [CRP] as covariates. We stratified subjects into tertiles based on [ferritin] to compare high-normal and low-normal [ferritin] groups (138 ± 30 vs. 40 ± 15 ng/mL). Compared with the low-normal [ferritin] group, the high-normal [ferritin] group had significantly (p < 0.02) higher FA Ra (15.6 ± 5.5 vs. 8.8 ± 2.4 µmol/kg fat mass/min), adipose p-HSLser660 (1.3 ± 0.4 vs. 0.6 ± 0.2 AU) and whole-body insulin resistance (glucose infusion rate 9.2 ± 2.3 vs. 14.3 ± 3.5 mg/kg fat free mass/min). There were no between-group differences in anthropometric characteristics, plasma [adiponectin], or plasma [CRP]. Our findings suggest that iron-mediated activation of adipose lipolysis may be a mechanism linking body iron stores and insulin resistance in obese humans.


B.J. Ryan: None. D.W. Van Pelt: None. L.M. Guth: None. A. Ludzki: None. R.A. Gioscia-Ryan: None. C. Ahn: None. J.F. Horowitz: None.

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