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Phosphatidylcholine transfer protein (PC-TP) is a phospholipid-binding protein that is enriched in liver and that interacts with thioesterase superfamily member 2 (THEM2). Mice lacking either protein exhibit improved hepatic glucose homeostasis and are resistant to diet-induced diabetes. Insulin receptor substrate 2 (IRS2) and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) are key effectors of insulin signaling, which is attenuated in diabetes. We found that PC-TP inhibited IRS2, as evidenced by insulin-independent IRS2 activation after knockdown, genetic ablation, or chemical inhibition of PC-TP. In addition, IRS2 was activated after knockdown of THEM2, providing support for a role for the interaction of PC-TP with THEM2 in suppressing insulin signaling. Additionally, we showed that PC-TP bound to tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (TSC2) and stabilized the components of the TSC1-TSC2 complex, which functions to inhibit mTORC1. Preventing phosphatidylcholine from binding to PC-TP disrupted interactions of PC-TP with THEM2 and TSC2, and disruption of the PC-TP-THEM2 complex was associated with increased activation of both IRS2 and mTORC1. In livers of mice with genetic ablation of PC-TP or that had been treated with a PC-TP inhibitor, steady-state amounts of IRS2 were increased, whereas those of TSC2 were decreased. These findings reveal a phospholipid-dependent mechanism that suppresses insulin signaling downstream of its receptor.

Original publication




Journal article


Sci Signal

Publication Date





Animals, Glucose, HEK293 Cells, Homeostasis, Humans, Inhibitory Concentration 50, Insulin, Liver, Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1, Mice, Mice, Transgenic, Multiprotein Complexes, Phospholipid Transfer Proteins, Phosphorylation, Signal Transduction, TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases, Thiolester Hydrolases, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein, Tumor Suppressor Proteins