Diet-induced obesity is known to cause peripheral insulin resistance in rodents. We have recently found that feeding cod protein to high-fat-fed rats prevents the development of insulin resistance in skeletal muscle. In the present study, we have further explored the cellular mechanisms behind this beneficial effect of cod protein on skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity. Rats were fed a standard chow diet or a high-fat diet in which the protein source was either casein, soy, or cod proteins for 4 weeks. Whole-body and muscle glucose disposal were reduced by ∼50% in rats fed high-fat diets with casein or soy proteins, but these impairments were not observed in animals fed cod protein. Insulin-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of the insulin receptor and insulin receptor substrate (IRS) proteins were similar in muscle of chow- and high-fat-fed rats regardless of the dietary protein source. However, IRS-1-associated phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase activity was severely impaired (−60%) in muscle of high-fat-fed rats consuming casein or soy protein. In marked contrast, feeding rats with cod protein completely prevented the deleterious effect of fat feeding on insulin-stimulated PI 3-kinase activity. The activation of the downstream kinase Akt/PKB by insulin, assessed by in vitro kinase assay and phosphorylation of GSK-3β, were also impaired in muscle of high-fat-fed rats consuming casein or soy protein, but these defects were also fully prevented by dietary cod protein. However, no effect of cod protein was observed on atypical protein kinase C activity. Normalization of PI 3-kinase/Akt activation by insulin in rats fed high-fat diets with cod protein was associated with improved translocation of GLUT4 to the T-tubules but not to the plasma membrane. Taken together, these results show that dietary cod protein is a natural insulin-sensitizing agent that appears to prevent obesity-linked muscle insulin resistance by normalizing insulin activation of the PI 3-kinase/Akt pathway and by selectively improving GLUT4 translocation to the T-tubules.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to André Marette, Department of Physiology & Lipid Research Unit, Laval University Hospital Research Center, 2705 Laurier Blvd, Ste-Foy, Québec, Canada G1V 4G2. E-mail:
Received for publication 15 April 2002 and accepted in revised form 14 October 2002.
aPKC, atypical PKC; DHPr, dihydropyridine receptor; IRAP, insulin-responsive aminopeptidase; IRS, insulin receptor substrate; IM, intracellular membrane; PI, phosphatidylinositol; PKC, protein kinase C; PM, plasma membrane; PVDF, polyvinylidene difluoride; SR, sarcoplasmic reticulum; TNF, tumor necrosis factor; T-tubules, transverse tubules.