Dissociation of intramyocellular lipid storage and insulin resistance in trained athletes and type 2 diabetes patients; involvement of perilipin 5?

Anne Gemmink, Sabine Daemen, Bram Brouwers, Peter R. Huntjens, Gert Schaart, Esther Moonen-Kornips, Johanna Jorgensen, Joris Hoeks, Patrick Schrauwen, Matthijs K. C. Hesselink*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) hampers insulin sensitivity, albeit not in endurance-trained athletes (Trained). Compared to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients, Trained subjects have high levels of perilipin 5 (PLIN5). In the present study, we tested whether the fraction of PLIN5-coated lipid droplets (LDs) is a determinant of skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity and contributes to the athlete's paradox. Muscle biopsies were taken from eight Trained, Lean sedentary, Obese and T2DM subjects. Trained, Obese and T2DM subjects were matched for total IMCL content. Confocal images were analysed for lipid area fraction, LD size and number and PLIN5+ and PLIN5- LDs were measured. A stepwise linear regression was performed to identify factors explaining observed variance in glucose infusion rate (GIR). Trained and T2DM subjects stored IMCL differently; Trained subjects had a higher number of LDs compared to T2DM subjects (0.0370.004m(-2)vs. 0.0230.003m(-2), P=0.024) that were non-significantly smaller (0.270.01m(2)vs. 0.320.02m(2), P=0.197, Trained vs. T2DM). Even though total PLIN5 protein content was almost double in Trained vs. T2DM subjects (1.650.21AU vs. 0.89 +/- 0.09AU, P=0.004), PLIN5 coating did not affect LD number or size significantly. Of the observed variance in GIR, the largest fraction by far (70.2%) was explained by maximal oxygen uptake. Adding PLIN5 protein content or PLIN5+ LDs increased the explained variance in GIR (74.7% and 80.7% for PLIN5 protein content and PLIN5+ LDs, respectively). Thus, the putative relationship between PLIN5 and insulin sensitivity is at best indirect and is apparent only in conjunction with maximal oxygen uptake. Hence, PLIN5 abundance cannot be causally linked to the athlete's paradox.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-868
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Perilipin 5
  • intramyocellular lipid storage
  • athlete's paradox
  • PLIN5

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