Low-grade chronic inflammation may be a factor in the development of insulin resistance. Studies suggest that chronic inflammation may be due in part to changes in composition and function of gut microflora, which provide an intestinal barrier preventing bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) release. Animal and human studies demonstrate that obesity increases gut permeability leading to elevated plasma LPS levels resulting in inflammation and metabolic dysfunction. We hypothesized that insulin resistance could be produced by inflammatory factors secreted by macrophages when exposed to gut-released LPS. We examined the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling pathway, which may be responsible for the macrophage inflammatory response. We examined whether inhibition of ERK activity blocked LPS-mediated responses in bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDM). To determine which ERK isoform is involved in the regulation of inflammatory factor production, we used siRNA to knockdown ERK1, ERK2, or both. BMDM were treated with LPS (100 ng/ml, 6hr). LPS induced TNF-α, RANTES, MCP-1, and IFN-β production of 106371±18250 pg/ml, 11827 ± 1168 pg/ml, 851 ± 73 pg/ml, and 454 ± 46 pg/ml, respectively. Knockdown of ERK1 decreased the release of TNF-α and RANTES to 26534 ± 1471 pg/ml and 5938 ± 806 pg/ml, respectively. Knockdown of ERK2 decreased the release of TNF-α and RANTES to 11600±3610 pg/ml and 7289 ± 265 pg/ml, respectively. Knockdown of either ERK1 or ERK2 did not decrease the release of MCP-1 and IFN-β. However, double knockdown of ERK1 and ERK2 had the greatest inhibition of TNF-α, RANTES, MCP-1, and IFN-β release (not detected, 1540 ± 240 pg/ml, 549 ± 32 pg/ml, and 31 ± 1 pg/ml, respectively).

In summary, knockdown of both ERK isoforms is necessary to completely abrogate the LPS effect in macrophages. We propose that ERK positively regulates LPS-mediated inflammatory responses and inhibition of ERK signaling may protect against development of insulin resistance.


P.F. Chang: None. S.M. Reyna: None.


National Institutes of Health; University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

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