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Nils Wierup

Nils Wierup

Senior lecturer

Nils Wierup

Enhanced mitochondrial metabolism may account for the adaptation to insulin resistance in islets from C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet.


  • Malin Fex
  • Marloes Dekker Nitert
  • Nils Wierup
  • Frank Sundler
  • Charlotte Ling
  • Hindrik Mulder

Summary, in English

Aim/hypothesis Hyperinsulinaemia maintains euglycaemia in insulin-resistant states. The precise cellular mechanisms by which the beta cells adapt are still unresolved. A peripherally derived cue, such as increased circulating fatty acids, may instruct the beta cell to initiate an adaptive programme to maintain glucose homeostasis. When this fails, type 2 diabetes ensues. Because mitochondria play a key role in beta cell pathophysiology, we tested the hypothesis that mitochondrial metabolism is critical for beta cell adaptation to insulin resistance.

Methods C57BL/6J mice were given high-fat (HF) diet for 12 weeks. We then analysed islet hormone secretion, metabolism in vivo and in vitro, and beta cell morphology.

Results HF diet resulted in insulin resistance and glucose intolerance but not frank diabetes. Basal insulin secretion was elevated in isolated islets from HF mice with almost no additional response provoked by high glucose. In contrast, a strong secretory response was seen when islets from HF mice were stimulated with fuels that require mitochondrial metabolism, such as glutamate, glutamine, alpha-ketoisocaproic acid and succinate. Moreover, while glucose oxidation was impaired in islets from HF mice, oxidation of glutamine and palmitate was enhanced. Ultrastructural analysis of islets in HF mice revealed an accumulation of lipid droplets in beta cells and a twofold increase in mitochondrial area.

Conclusions/interpretation We propose that beta cells exposed to increased lipid flux in insulin resistance respond by increasing mitochondrial volume. This expansion is associated with enhanced mitochondrial metabolism as a means of beta cell compensation.

Electronic supplementary material Supplementary material is available in the online version of this article at and is accessible to authorised users.


  • Celiac Disease and Diabetes Unit
  • Department of Experimental Medical Science
  • Genomics, Diabetes and Endocrinology

Publishing year












Document type

Journal article




  • Endocrinology and Diabetes


  • High-fat diet
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Mitochondrial metabolism



Research group

  • Celiac Disease and Diabetes Unit
  • Genomics, Diabetes and Endocrinology


  • ISSN: 1432-0428