The role of adipokines in skeletal muscle inflammation and insulin sensitivity

Thomas Nicholson, Christopher Church, David Baker, Simon Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: There is currently an unmet clinical need to develop better pharmacological treatments to improve glucose handling in Type II Diabetes patients with obesity. To this end, determining the effect of obesity-associated adipokines on skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity has emerged as an important area of drug discovery research. This review draws together the data on the functional role of adipokines on skeletal muscle insulin signalling, highlights several understudied novel adipokines and provides a perspective on the direction of future research.

Main body: The adipokines leptin, resistin, visfatin and adiponectin have all been shown to affect skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity by impacting on the activity of components within insulin signalling pathways, affecting GLUT4 translocation and modulating insulinmediated skeletal muscle glucose uptake. Furthermore, proteomic analysis of the adipose tissue secretome has recently identified several novel adipokines including vaspin, chemerin and pref-1 that are associated with obesity and insulin resistance in humans and functionally impact on insulin signalling pathways. However, predominantly, these functional findings are the result of studies in rodents, with in vitro studies utilising either rat L6 or murine C2C12 myoblasts and/or myotubes. Despite the methodology to isolate and culture human myoblasts and to differentiate them into myotubes being established, the use of human muscle in vitro models for the functional validation of adipokines on skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity is limited.

Conclusion: Understanding the mechanism of action and function of adipokines in mediating insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle may lead to the development of novel therapeutics for patients with type 2 diabetes. However, to date, studies conducted in human skeletal muscle cells and tissues are limited. Such human in vitro studies should be prioritised in order to reduce the risk of candidate drugs failing in the clinic due to the assumption that rodent skeletal muscle target validation studies will to translate to human.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Inflammation
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2018


  • obesity
  • adipokines
  • inflammation
  • skeletal muscle
  • myotubes
  • insulin signalling
  • type II diabetes


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