C-reactive protein impairs hepatic insulin sensitivity and insulin signaling in rats: Role of mitogen-activated protein kinases


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

  • Supported by a grant-in-aid (to G.F.L.) and a research fellowship (to L.X.) from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. G.F.L. holds a Canada Research Chair in Diabetes and is a Career Investigator of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. R.B. was funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) concentration is increased in the metabolic syndrome, which consists of a cluster of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including insulin resistance. It is not known, however, whether CRP is merely a marker of accompanying inflammation or whether it contributes causally to insulin resistance. The objective of this study is to investigate the role that CRP may play in the development of insulin resistance. We examined the effect of single-dose intravenous administration of purified human (h)CRP on insulin sensitivity in Sprague-Dawley rats using the euglycemic, hyperinsulinemic clamp technique. hCRP was associated with impaired insulin suppression of endogenous glucose production with no reduction in peripheral tissue glucose uptake, suggesting that hCRP mediated insulin resistance in the liver but not extrahepatic tissues. We further assessed components of the insulin signaling pathway and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in the liver. Liver tissues derived from hCRP-treated rats showed reduced insulin-stimulated insulin receptor substrate (IRS) tyrosine phosphorylation, IRS/phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) association, and Akt phosphorylation, consistent with hCRP-induced impairment of hepatic insulin signaling. Furthermore, hCRP enhanced phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2 and p38 MAPK as well as IRS-1 Ser612. Finally, we observed in primary cultured rat hepatocytes that U0126 (a selective inhibitor of MAPK/ERK kinase1/2) corrected hCRP-induced impairment of insulin signaling. Conclusions: hCRP plays an active role in inducing hepatic insulin resistance in the rat, at least in part by activating ERK1/2, with downstream impairment in the insulin signaling pathway. (HEPATOLOGY 2011)