Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 1999; 107(2): 113-118
DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1212085

© J. A. Barth Verlag in Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Genetics of insulin resistance

O. Pedersen
  • Steno Diabetes Centre, Gentofte, Copenhagen, Denmark
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Publication History

Publication Date:
14 July 2009 (online)


Even among young, healthy individuals, there is more than a 10-fold variation in insulin sensitivity; however, taken in combination, all the known modifiers of insulin sensitivity - including obesity and a variety of environmental factors - explain less than one third of this variation. It is possible that genetic factors could account for the bulk of the variance observed, and hence play a major role in the development of impaired insulin sensitivity, ie insulin resistance.

From the genetic point of view, insulin resistance is thought to be due to the inheritance of a number of mutations in a variety of genes. Three complementary approaches have been applied in the search for mutations: mutational analysis of candidate genes; linkage analysis of candidate genes or chromosomal regions for insulin resistance in familial type 2 diabetes; and random genome mapping with quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis.

Mutational analysis of the insulin signalling cascade has identified a glycine-arginine (Gly-Arg) substitution at codon 972 of the insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) gene with a carrier prevalence of 9% among Caucasians. Expression of this variant in 32-D cells is associated with a significant (20-30%) impairment of insulin-stimulated PI3-kinase activity, as well as reduced binding of IRS-1 to the p85 regulatory subunit of PI3-kinase. Genotype/phenotype studies stratified according to body mass index (BMI) indicate that obese subjects who are heterozygous for the mutant allele have a 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity, compared with wild-type obese subjects. This suggests that there may be an interaction between the mutant allele and obesity, such that, in the presence of obesity, the mutant variant may aggravate the obesity-associated insulin resistance. Mutational analysis has also shown that homozygous carriers of a codon Met 326 He mutation in the p85 subunit of phos-phatidylinositol-3 (PI3)-kinase (about 2% of the Caucasian population) have lower glucose tolerance, glucose effectiveness.

A further Asp to Tyr polymorphism has been identified at codon 905 of the gene encoding the regulatory subunit of glycogen-associated protein phosphatase-1 (PP1G). Individuals who are heterozygous for this polymorphism constitute 18% of the Caucasian population and appear to exhibit both tissue-specific and pathway-specific insulin resistance.

It is likely that inherited insulin resistance will eventually prove to be related to subtle mutations in many such genes of the insulin signalling network and the numerous genetic components controlling energy metabolism.