Excitotoxic glutamate causes neuronal insulin resistance by inhibiting insulin receptor/Akt/mTOR pathway

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Aim: An impaired biological response to insulin in the brain, known as central insulin resistance, was identified during stroke and traumatic brain injury, for which glutamate excitotoxicity is a common pathogenic factor. The exact molecular link between excitotoxicity and central insulin resistance remains unclear. To explore this issue, the present study aimed to investigate the effects of glutamate-evoked increases in intracellular free Ca2+ concentrations [Ca2+]i and mitochondrial depolarisations, two key factors associated with excitotoxicity, on the insulin-induced activation of the insulin receptor (IR) and components of the Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway in primary cultures of rat cortical neurons. Methods: Changes in [Ca2+]i and mitochondrial inner membrane potentials (Δψm) were monitored in rat cultured cortical neurons, using the fluorescent indicators Fura-FF and Rhodamine 123, respectively. The levels of active, phosphorylated signalling molecules associated with the IR/Akt/mTOR pathway were measured with the multiplex fluorescent immunoassay. Results: When significant mitochondrial depolarisations occurred due to glutamate-evoked massive influxes of Ca2+ into the cells, insulin induced 48% less activation of the IR (assessed by IR tyrosine phosphorylation, pY1150/1151), 72% less activation of Akt (assessed by Akt serine phosphorylation, pS473), 44% less activation of mTOR (assessed by mTOR pS2448), and 38% less inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase β (GSK3β) (assessed by GSK3β pS9) compared with respective controls. These results suggested that excitotoxic glutamate inhibits signalling via the IR/Akt/mTOR pathway at multiple levels, including the IR, resulting in the development of acute neuronal insulin resistance within minutes, as an early pathological event associated with excitotoxicity.




Pomytkin, I., Krasil’nikova, I., Bakaeva, Z., Surin, A., & Pinelis, V. (2019). Excitotoxic glutamate causes neuronal insulin resistance by inhibiting insulin receptor/Akt/mTOR pathway. Molecular Brain, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13041-019-0533-5

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