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Animal and human tissue Na,K-ATPase in normal and insulin-resistant states: regulation, behaviour and interpretative hypothesis on NEFA effects


Assistant Professor S Iannello, Via XX Settembre, 19, 95127 S. Gregorio di Catania, Italy. E-mail:


The sodium(Na)- and potassium(K)-activated adenosine-triphosphatase (Na,K-ATPase) is a membrane enzyme that energizes the Na-pump by hydrolysing adenosine triphosphate and wasting energy as heat, so playing a role in thermogenesis and energy balance. Na,K-ATPase regulation by insulin is controversial; in tissue of hyperglycemic-hyperinsulinemic ob/ob mice, we reported a reduction, whereas in streptozotocin-treated hypoinsulinemic-diabetic Swiss and ob/ob mice we found an increased activity, which is against a genetic defect and suggests a regulation by hyperinsulinemia. In human adipose tissue from obese patients, Na,K-ATPase activity was reduced and negatively correlated with body mass index, oral glucose tolerance test-insulinemic area and blood pressure. We hypothesized that obesity is associated with tissue Na,K-ATPase reduction, apparently linked to hyperinsulinemia, which may repress or inactivate the enzyme, thus opposing thyroid hormones and influencing thermogenesis and obesity development. Insulin action on Na,K-ATPase, in vivo, might be mediated by the high level of non-esterified fatty acids, which are circulating enzyme inhibitors and increase in obesity, diabetes and hypertension. In this paper, we analyse animal and human tissue Na,K-ATPase, its level, and its regulation and behaviour in some hyperinsulinemic and insulin-resistant states; moreover, we discuss the link of the enzyme with non-esterified fatty acids and attempt to interpret and organize in a coherent view the whole body of the exhaustive literature on this complicated topic.

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