Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

Insulin Resistance in Non-Obese Subjects Is Associated with Activation of the JNK Pathway and Impaired Insulin Signaling in Skeletal Muscle



The pathogenesis of insulin resistance in the absence of obesity is unknown. In obesity, multiple stress kinases have been identified that impair the insulin signaling pathway via serine phosphorylation of key second messenger proteins. These stress kinases are activated through various mechanisms related to lipid oversupply locally in insulin target tissues and in various adipose depots.

Methodology/principal findings

To explore whether specific stress kinases that have been implicated in the insulin resistance of obesity are potentially contributing to insulin resistance in non-obese individuals, twenty healthy, non-obese, normoglycemic subjects identified as insulin sensitive or resistant were studied. Vastus lateralis muscle biopsies obtained during euglycemic, hyperinsulinemic clamp were evaluated for insulin signaling and for activation of stress kinase pathways. Total and regional adipose stores and intramyocellular lipids (IMCL) were assessed by DXA, MRI and (1)H-MRS. In muscle of resistant subjects, phosphorylation of JNK was increased (1.36±0.23 vs. 0.78±0.10 OD units, P<0.05), while there was no evidence for activation of p38 MAPK or IKKβ. IRS-1 serine phosphorylation was increased (1.30±0.09 vs. 0.22±0.03 OD units, P<0.005) while insulin-stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation decreased (10.97±0.95 vs. 0.89±0.50 OD units, P<0.005). IMCL levels were twice as high in insulin resistant subjects (3.26±0.48 vs. 1.58±0.35% H(2)O peak, P<0.05), who also displayed increased total fat and abdominal fat when compared to insulin sensitive controls.


This is the first report demonstrating that insulin resistance in non-obese, normoglycemic subjects is associated with activation of the JNK pathway related to increased IMCL and higher total body and abdominal adipose stores. While JNK activation is consistent with a primary impact of muscle lipid accumulation on metabolic stress, further work is necessary to determine the relative contributions of the various mediators of impaired insulin signaling in this population.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View