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Fatty acid desaturases such as steaoryl-CoA desaturase (SCD) convert saturated to unsaturated fatty acids and are involved in lipogenesis. Observational and animal data suggest that SCD-1 activity is related to insulin sensitivity. However, the effects of insulin-sensitizing drugs on SCD gene expression and desaturase activities are unknown in humans. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study, 24 subjects with type 2 diabetes and one subject with partial lipodystrophy and diabetes due to dominant-negative mutation in the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPARgamma) gene (P467L) received placebo and rosiglitazone for 3 months. SCD gene expression in adipose tissue was determined in 23 subjects, and in a representative subgroup (n = 10) we assessed fatty acid composition in fasting plasma triglycerides to estimate SCD and delta6- and delta5-desaturase activity, using product-to-precursor indexes. SCD mRNA expression increased by 48% after rosiglitazone (P < 0.01). SCD and delta5-desaturase but not delta6-desaturase activity indexes were increased after rosiglitazone versus placebo (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively). The change in activity index but not the expression of SCD was associated with improved insulin sensitivity (r = 0.73, P < 0.05). In the P467L PPARgamma carrier, SCD and delta5-desaturase activity indexes were exceptionally low but were restored (52- and 15-fold increases, respectively) after rosiglitazone treatment. This study shows for the first time that rosiglitazone increases SCD activity indexes and gene expression in humans. An increased SCD activity index may reflect increased lipogenesis and might contribute to insulin sensitization by rosiglitazone. The restored SCD activity index after rosiglitazone in PPARgamma mutation supports a pivotal role of PPARgamma function in SCD regulation.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1379 - 1384


Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Humans, Hypoglycemic Agents, Insulin, Kinetics, Mutation, PPAR gamma, Reference Values, Rosiglitazone, Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase, Thiazolidinediones