Treatment with a β-2-adrenoceptor agonist stimulates glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and improves glucose homeostasis, insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis in mice with diet-induced obesity

Anastasia Kalinovich, Nodi Dehvari, Alice Aslund, Sten van Beek, Carina Halleskog, Jessica Olsen, Elisabete Forsberg, Evelyn Zacharewicz, Gert Schaart, Mia Rinde, Anna Sandstrom, Roger Berlin, Claes-Goran Ostenson, Joris Hoeks, Tore Bengtsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Web of Science)


Aims/hypothesis Chronic stimulation of beta(2)-adrenoceptors, opposite to acute treatment, was reported to reduce blood glucose levels, as well as to improve glucose and insulin tolerance in rodent models of diabetes by essentially unknown mechanisms. We recently described a novel pathway that mediates glucose uptake in skeletal muscle cells via stimulation of beta(2)-adrenoceptors. In the current study we further explored the potential therapeutic relevance of beta(2)-adrenoceptor stimulation to improve glucose homeostasis and the mechanisms responsible for the effect. Methods C57Bl/6N mice with diet-induced obesity were treated both acutely and for up to 42 days with a wide range of clenbuterol dosages and treatment durations. Glucose homeostasis was assessed by glucose tolerance test. We also measured in vivo glucose uptake in skeletal muscle, insulin sensitivity by insulin tolerance test, plasma insulin levels, hepatic lipids and glycogen. Results Consistent with previous findings, acute clenbuterol administration increased blood glucose and insulin levels. However, already after 4 days of treatment, beneficial effects of clenbuterol were manifested in glucose homeostasis (32% improvement of glucose tolerance after 4 days of treatment,p <0.01) and these effects persisted up to 42 days of treatment. These favourable metabolic effects could be achieved with doses as low as 0.025 mg kg(-1) day(-1)(40 times lower than previously studied). Mechanistically, these effects were not due to increased insulin levels, but clenbuterol enhanced glucose uptake in skeletal muscle in vivo both acutely in lean mice (by 64%,p <0.001) as well as during chronic treatment in diet-induced obese mice (by 74%,p <0.001). Notably, prolonged treatment with low-dose clenbuterol improved whole-body insulin sensitivity (glucose disposal rate after insulin injection increased up to 1.38 +/- 0.31%/min in comparison with 0.15 +/- 0.36%/min in control mice,p <0.05) and drastically reduced hepatic steatosis (by 40%,p <0.01) and glycogen (by 23%,p <0.05). Conclusions/interpretation Clenbuterol improved glucose tolerance after 4 days of treatment and these effects were maintained for up to 42 days. Effects were achieved with doses in a clinically relevant microgram range. Mechanistically, prolonged treatment with a low dose of clenbuterol improved glucose homeostasis in insulin resistant mice, most likely by stimulating glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and improving whole-body insulin sensitivity as well as by reducing hepatic lipids and glycogen. We conclude that selective beta(2)-adrenergic agonists might be an attractive potential treatment for type 2 diabetes. This remains to be confirmed in humans.

Graphical abstract

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1603-1615
Number of pages13
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • beta(2)-Adrenergic signalling
  • Clenbuterol
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Insulin resistance
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Type 2 diabetes

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