Abstract Human studies have provided relatively strong associations of poor vitamin D status with type 2 diabetes, but do not explain the nature of the association. Here, we explored the physiological pathways that may explain how vitamin D status modulates energy, lipid and glucose metabolisms in non-obese type 2 diabetic rats. Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats were fed high fat diets containing 25 (VD-low), 1,000 (VD-normal), or 10,000 (VD-high) cholecalciferol IU/kg diet for 8 weeks. Energy expenditure, insulin resistance, insulin secretory capacity, and lipid metabolism were measured. Serum 25-OH-D levels, an index of vitamin D status, increased dose-dependently with dietary vitamin D. VD-low resulted in less fat oxidation without a significant difference in energy expenditure, and less lean body mass in the abdomen and legs comparison to the VD-normal group. In comparison to VD-low, VD-normal had lower serum triglycerides and intracellular fat accumulation in the liver and skeletal muscles which was associated with downregulation of the mRNA expressions of sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c and fatty acid synthase, and upregulation of gene expressions of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR)-α and carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1. In euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp, whole body and hepatic insulin resistance was exacerbated in the VD-low group but not in the VD-normal group, possibly through decreasing hepatic insulin signaling and PPAR-γ expression in the adipocytes. In 3T3-L1 adipocytes 1,25-(OH)2-D (10 nM) increased triglyceride accumulation by elevating PPAR-γ expression and treatment with a PPAR-γ antagonist blocked the triglyceride deposition induced by 1,25-(OH)2-D treatment. VD-low impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in hyperglycemic clamp and decreased β-cell mass by decreasing β-cell proliferation. In conclusion, vitamin D deficiency resulted in the dysregulation of glucose metabolism in GK rats by simultaneously increasing insulin resistance by decreasing adipose PPAR-γ expression, and deteriorating β-cell function and mass.
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