Hyperinsulinemia can be both a cause and consequence of obesity and insulin resistance. Hyperinsulinemia can result from increased insulin secretion and/or reduced insulin clearance. While many studies have focused on mechanisms triggering insulin secretion during obesity, the triggers for changes in insulin clearance during obesity are less defined. In this study, we investigated the role of the microbiota in regulating insulin clearance during diet-induced obesity.
Blood glucose and insulin clearance were tested in conventional male mice treated with antibiotics and germ-free mice colonized with microbes from mice that were fed a control (chow) diet or an obesogenic high-fat diet (HFD). The composition of the fecal microbiota was analyzed using 16S rRNA sequencing.
Short-term HFD feeding and aging did not alter insulin clearance in the mice. Oral antibiotics mitigated impaired blood insulin clearance in the mice fed an HFD for 12 weeks or longer. Germ-free mice colonized with microbes from HFD-fed donor mice had impaired insulin but not C-peptide clearance. Microbe-transmissible insulin clearance impairment was only observed in germ-free mice after more than 6 weeks post-colonization upon HFD feeding. Five bacterial taxa predicted >90% of the variance in insulin clearance. Mechanistically, impaired insulin clearance was associated with lower levels of hepatic Ceacam-1 but increased liver and skeletal muscle insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) activity.
Gut microbes regulate insulin clearance during diet-induced obesity. A small cluster of microbes or their metabolites may be targeted for mitigating defects in insulin clearance and hyperinsulinemia during the progression of obesity and type 2 diabetes.