Insulin resistance contributes to a number of metabolic disorders, including type II diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. Cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1 beta, and interleukin-6, and hormones, such as growth hormone, are known to cause insulin resistance, but the mechanisms by which they inhibit the cellular response to insulin have not been elucidated. One mechanism by which these agents could cause insulin resistance is by inducing the expression of cellular proteins that inhibit insulin receptor (IR) signaling. Suppressors of cytokine signaling (SOCS) proteins are negative regulators of cytokine signaling pathways, the expression of which is regulated by certain cytokines. SOCS proteins are therefore attractive candidates as mediators of cytokine-induced insulin resistance. We have found that SOCS-1 and SOCS-6 interact with the IR when expressed in human hepatoma cells (HepG2) or in rat hepatoma cells overexpressing the human IR. In SOCS-1-expressing cells, insulin treatment increases the extent of interaction with the IR, whereas in SOCS-6-expressing cells the association with the IR appears to require insulin treatment. SOCS-1 and SOCS-6 do not inhibit insulin-dependent IR autophosphorylation, but both proteins inhibit insulin-dependent activation of ERK1/2 and protein kinase B in vivo and IR-directed phosphorylation of IRS-1 in vitro. These results suggest that SOCS proteins may be inhibitors of IR signaling and could mediate cytokine-induced insulin resistance and contribute to the pathogenesis of type II diabetes.
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