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Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(8):985-995. doi:10.7150/ijbs.19249

Research Paper

Intracellular Insulin and Impaired Autophagy in a Zebrafish model and a Cell Model of Type 2 diabetes

Xiang-Hui Meng, Bo Chen, Jing-Pu Zhang

Laboratory of pharmacology, Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China


Type 2 diabetes mellitus is characterized by insulin resistance. However, the complete molecular mechanism remains unclear. In this study, zebrafish were fed a long-term high-fat diet to induce type 2 diabetes, which resulted in a higher body weight, body mass index, more lipid vacuoles in liver, increased insulin transcription level in liver, brain and muscle, and high fasting blood glucose in the high-fat diet zebrafish. Oppositely, the transcription levels of insulin substrate-2 and glucose transporter 2 were significantly decreased, indicating insulin signaling pathway and glucose transport impaired in the insulin-targeting tissues. Transcription of the autophagy-related genes, ATG3, ATG4B, ATG5, ATG7, ATG12, and FOXO3, were decreased but autophagy inhibitor gene m-TOR increased, and autophagy-flux was inhibited in liver of the high-fat diet zebrafish. Main of these changes were confirmed in palmitic acid-treated HepG2 cells. Further, in co-immunoprecipitation and subcellular co-localization experiments, the conjunction of preproinsulin with cargo-recognition protein p62 increased, but conjuncts of autophagosome with p62-cargo, lysosomes with p62-cargo, and autolysosomes decreased apparently. Interestingly, lysosomes, autolysosomes and conjuncts of p62-insulin localized at the periphery of palmitic acid-treated cells, the margination of lysosomes may mediate deactivation of proteases activity. These findings suggest that intracellular high-lipid may trigger defective autophagy, defective downstream signaling of insulin and accumulated intracellular preproinsulin, leading to dysregulation of cell homeostasis mechanism, which may be one of reasons involved in insulin-resistance in type 2 diabetes.

Keywords: type 2 diabetes, insulin-targeting tissues, animal models, defective autophagy, subcellular localization, preproinsulin

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Meng XH, Chen B, Zhang JP. Intracellular Insulin and Impaired Autophagy in a Zebrafish model and a Cell Model of Type 2 diabetes. Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(8):985-995. doi:10.7150/ijbs.19249. Available from