Endocrinology and Metabolism

High insulin levels are required for FAT/CD36 plasma membrane translocation and enhanced fatty acid uptake in obese Zucker rat hepatocytes

Xabier Buqué, Ainara Cano, María E. Miquilena-Colina, Carmelo García-Monzón, Begoña Ochoa, Patricia Aspichueta


In myocytes and adipocytes, insulin increases fatty acid translocase (FAT)/CD36 translocation to the plasma membrane (PM), enhancing fatty acid (FA) uptake. Evidence links increased hepatic FAT/CD36 protein amount and gene expression with hyperinsulinemia in animal models and patients with fatty liver, but whether insulin regulates FAT/CD36 expression, amount, distribution, and function in hepatocytes is currently unknown. To investigate this, FAT/CD36 protein content in isolated hepatocytes, subfractions of organelles, and density-gradient isolated membrane subfractions was analyzed in obese and lean Zucker rats by Western blotting in liver sections by immunohistochemistry and in hepatocytes by immunocytochemistry. The uptake of oleate and oleate incorporation into lipids were assessed in hepatocytes at short time points (30–600 s). We found that FAT/CD36 protein amount at the PM was higher in hepatocytes from obese rats than from lean controls. In obese rat hepatocytes, decreased cytoplasmatic content of FAT/CD36 and redistribution from low- to middle- to middle- to high-density subfractions of microsomes were found. Hallmarks of obese Zucker rat hepatocytes were increased amount of FAT/CD36 protein at the PM and enhanced FA uptake and incorporation into triglycerides, which were maintained only when exposed to hyperinsulinemic conditions (80 mU/l). In conclusion, high insulin levels are required for FAT/CD36 translocation to the PM in obese rat hepatocytes to enhance FA uptake and triglyceride synthesis. These results suggest that the hyperinsulinemia found in animal models and patients with insulin resistance and fatty liver might contribute to liver fat accumulation by inducing FAT/CD36 functional presence at the PM of hepatocytes.

  • fatty acid translocase
  • steatosis
  • hyperinsulinemia
  • free fatty acid
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • triglyceride
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