Insulin Resistance : Causes, biomarkers and consequences

Abstract: The worldwide increasing number of persons affected by largely preventable diseases like diabetes demands better prevention and treatment. Insulin is required for effective utilisation of circulating nutrients. Impaired responsiveness to insulin (insulin resistance, IR) is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes and independently raises the risk of heart attack and stroke. The pathophysiology of IR is incompletely understood. High-throughput measurement of large numbers of circulating biomarkers may provide new insights beyond established risk factors.The aims of this thesis were to (i) use proteomics, metabolomics and genomics methods in large community samples to identify biomarkers of IR; (ii) assess biomarkers for risk prediction and insights into aetiology and consequences of IR; and (iii) use Mendelian randomisation analysis to assess causality.In Study I, analysis of 80 circulating proteins in 70-to-77-year-old Swedes identified cathepsin D as a biomarker for IR and highlighted a tentative causal effect of IR on raised plasma tissue plasminogen activator levels. In Study II, nontargeted fasting plasma metabolomics was used to discover 52 metabolites associated with glycaemic traits in non-diabetic 70-year-old men. Replication in independent samples of several thousand persons provided evidence for a causal effect of IR on reduced plasma oleic acid and palmitoleic acid levels. In Study III, nontargeted metabolomics in plasma samples obtained at three time points during an oral glucose challenge in 70-year-old men identified associations between a physiologic measure of IR and concentration changes in medium-chain acylcarnitines, monounsaturated fatty acids, bile acids and lysophosphatidylethanolamines. Study IV provided evidence in two large longitudinal cohorts for causal effects of type 2 diabetes and impaired insulin secretion on raised coronary artery disease risk.In conclusion, the Studies in this thesis provide new insights into the pathophysiology and adverse health consequences of IR and illustrate the value of combining traditional epidemiologic designs with recent molecular techniques and bioinformatics methods. The results provide limited evidence for the role of circulating proteins and small molecules in IR and require replication in separate studies and validation in experimental designs.