Insulin signaling in retinal neurons is regulated within cholesterol-enriched membrane microdomains

Todd E. Fox, Megan M. Young, Michelle M. Pedersen, Sarah Giambuzzi-Tussey, Mark Kester, Thomas W. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Neuronal cell death is an early pathological feature of diabetic retinopathy. We showed previously that insulin receptor signaling is diminished in retinas of animal models of diabetes and that downstream Akt signaling is involved in insulin-mediated retinal neuronal survival. Therefore, further understanding of the mechanisms by which retinal insulin receptor signaling is regulated could have therapeutic implications for neuronal cell death in diabetes. Here, we investigate the role of cholesterol-enriched membrane microdomains to regulate PKC-mediated inhibition of Akt-dependent insulin signaling in R28 retinal neurons. We demonstrate that PKC activation with either a phorbol ester or exogenous application of diacylglycerides impairs insulin-induced Akt activation, whereas PKC inhibition augments insulininduced Akt activation. To investigate the mechanism by which PKC impairs insulin-stimulated Akt activity, we assessed various upstream mediators of Akt signaling. PKC activation did not alter the tyrosine phosphorylation of the insulin receptor or IRS-2. Additionally, PKC activation did not impair phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activity, phosphoinositide-dependent kinase phosphorylation, lipid phosphatase (PTEN), or protein phosphatase 2A activities. Thus, we next investigated a biophysical mechanism by which insulin signaling could be disrupted and found that disruption of lipid microdomains via cholesterol depletion blocks insulin-induced Akt activation and reduces insulin receptor tyrosine phosphorylation. We also demonstrated that insulin localizes phosphorylated Akt to lipid microdomains and that PMA reduces phosphorylated Akt. In addition, PMA localizes and recruits PKC isotypes to these cholesterol-enriched microdomains. Taken together, these results demonstrate that both insulin-stimulated Akt signaling and PKC-induced inhibition of Akt signaling depend on cholesterol-enriched membrane microdomains, thus suggesting a putative biophysical mechanism underlying insulin resistance in diabetic retinopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E600-E609
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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