Markers of Skeletal Muscle Mitochondrial Function and Lipid Accumulation Are Moderately Associated with the Homeostasis Model Assessment Index of Insulin Resistance in Obese Men
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Lower skeletal muscle mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation capacity (OXPHOS) and intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) accumulation have been implicated in the etiology of insulin resistance (IR) in obesity. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of endurance exercise on biochemical and morphological measures of IMCL and mitochondrial content, and their relationship to IR in obese individuals. We examined mitochondrial content (subunit protein abundance and maximal activity of electron transport chain enzymes), IMCL/mitochondrial morphology in both subsarcolemmal (SS) and intermyofibrillar (IMF) regions by transmission electron microscopy, and intracellular lipid metabolites (diacylglycerol and ceramide) in vastus lateralis biopsies, as well as, the homeostasis model assessment index of IR (HOMA-IR) prior to and following twelve weeks of an endurance exercise regimen in healthy age- and physical activity-matched lean and obese men. Obese men did not show evidence of mitochondrial OXPHOS dysfunction, disproportionate IMCL content in sub-cellular regions, or diacylglycerol/ceramide accretion despite marked IR vs. lean controls. Endurance exercise increased OXPHOS and mitochondrial size and density, but not number of individual mitochondrial fragments, with moderate improvements in HOMA-IR. Exercise reduced SS IMCL content (size, number and density), increased IMF IMCL content, while increasing IMCL/mitochondrial juxtaposition in both regions. HOMA-IR was inversely associated with SS (r = -0.34; P = 0.051) and IMF mitochondrial density (r = -0.29; P = 0.096), IMF IMCL/mitochondrial juxtaposition (r = -0.30; P = 0.086), and COXII (r = -0.32; P = 0.095) and COXIV protein abundance (r = -0.35; P = 0.052); while positively associated with SS IMCL size (r = 0.28; P = 0.119) and SS IMCL density (r = 0.25; P = 0.152). Our findings suggest that once physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness have been controlled for, skeletal muscle mitochondrial and IMCL profile in obesity may only partially contribute to the development of IR.
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