Adipocyte insulin resistance can be caused by proximal insulin signaling defects but also from postreceptor mechanisms, which in large are poorly characterized. Adipocytes exposed for 18 h to the HIV protease inhibitor nelfinavir manifest insulin resistance characterized by normal insulin-stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of the insulin receptor and insulin receptor substrate proteins, preserved in vitro phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) assay activity but impaired activation of PKB/Akt and stimulation of glucose uptake. Here we aimed to assess whether impaired PKB/Akt activation is indeed rate limiting for insulin signaling propagation in response to nelfinavir and the mechanism for defective PKB/Akt activation. Nelfinavir treatment of 3T3-L1 adipocytes impaired the insulin-stimulated translocation and membrane fusion of myc-glucose transporter (GLUT)-4-green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter. Phosphorylation of PKB/Akt substrates including glycogen synthase kinase-3 and AS160 decreased in response to nelfinavir, and this remained true, even in cells with forced generation of phosphatidylinositol-3,4, 5-trisphohphate (PIP3) by a membrane-targeted active PI 3-kinase, confirming that impaired PKB/Akt activation was rate limiting for insulin signal propagation. Cells expressing a GFP-tagged pleckstrin homology domain of general receptors for phosphoinositides 1, which binds PIP3, revealed intact PIP3-mediated plasma membrane translocation of this reporter in nelfinavir-treated cells. However, expression of a membrane-targeted catalytic subunit of PI 3-kinase failed to induce myc-GLUT4-GFP translocation in the absence of insulin, as it did in control cells. Conversely, a membrane-targeted and constitutively active PKB/Akt mutant was normally phosphorylated on S473 and T308, confirming intact PKB/Akt kinases activity, and induced myc-GLUT4-GFP translocation. Collectively, nelfinavir uncovers a postreceptor mechanism for insulin resistance, caused by interference with the sensing of PIP3 by PKB/Akt, leading to impaired GLUT4 translocation and membrane fusion.
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