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COVID-19 impairs the insulin/IGF signaling pathway

The ongoing coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, brought on by the fast outbreak of the extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), has considerably affected the international healthcare system and financial system. Several research have reported that people of older age, in addition to these with sure comorbidities like weight problems and diabetes, are at a better threat of contracting extreme SARS-CoV-2 an infection.

Study: SARS-CoV-2 infection impairs the insulin/IGF signaling pathway in the lung, liver, adipose tissue, and pancreatic cells via IRF1. Image Credit: Eterysun /


Although most COVID-19 sufferers undergo gentle to average signs, 10-15% develop extreme pneumonia-like signs. In some people, COVID-19 causes tissue harm and triggers metabolic abnormalities, which may embrace the irregular synthesis of lipids, insulin, and amino acids. The underlying molecular mechanism related to these metabolic anomalies has but to be decided. 

Previous research have revealed that the insulin/insulin-like progress issue 1 (IGF) signaling pathway has an essential function in power metabolism. Other molecular pathways related to power uptake and utilization are the downstream AKT/mTOR/MAPK pathway and ligand/receptor interactions that provoke mobile signaling via IRS/PI3K.

Insulin resistance or irregular insulin/IGF responses happens because of impairment in the insulin/IGF signaling pathway in organs and tissues. In addition to insulin resistance, an impaired insulin/IGF signaling pathway additionally results in hyperglycemia, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and weight problems.

One earlier research confirmed that the systemic knockout of the insulin receptor in mice initiated an early onset of diabetes. Additionally, some mice died because of ketoacidosis.

Inhibition of the insulin/IGF signaling pathway in adipose tissue leads to the lack of adipose tissue. This situation additionally causes extreme metabolic syndrome, thus demonstrating that insulin/IGF signaling is important for the functioning of pancreatic beta cells.

Previous research have additionally demonstrated that knockout of the insulin receptor in beta cells brought about a discount in insulin manufacturing, a situation in any other case referred to as diabetes mellitus. The affiliation between insulin resistance and lung dysfunction in people has additionally been documented in the literature. To date, only a few research have decided the affect of SARS-CoV-2 an infection on the insulin/IGF signaling pathway.

About the research

In a current Metabolism research, scientists consider the affect of SARS-CoV-2 on the insulin/IGF signaling pathway. Herein, the researchers obtained high-throughput transcriptome knowledge associated to SARS-CoV-2 contaminated cells and tissues from public databases. 

The researchers additionally obtained post-mortem knowledge on the lungs of each COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 management sufferers. They additional assessed the affect of SARS-CoV-2 an infection on human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived liver organoids.

The present research evaluated the affect of IRF1 on insulin signaling utilizing HEK293T and Calu3 cells. To consider the function of COVID-19 threat components equivalent to intercourse, age, weight problems, and diabetes on mechanistic regulation, the scientists analyzed a number of transcriptomes of human metabolic, respiratory, and endocrine cells and tissues.

Study findings

A powerful affiliation between an impaired insulin/IGF signaling pathway and extreme COVID-19 was noticed. Moreover, the researchers discovered that SARS-CoV-2 an infection impacts a variety of insulin/IGF signaling pathways in the lungs, liver, pancreatic cells, and adipose tissue.

IRF1 was additionally discovered to be related to the impairment of the insulin/IGF signaling pathway. Previous research have linked the expression of IRF1 with male intercourse, older age, diabetes, and COVID-19. In truth, a better expression of IRF1 has been related to weight problems, older age, diabetes, and/or genetic variant, which could be intensified because of the upregulation of IRF1 in response to SARS-CoV-2 an infection. 

Previous research have proven that IRF1 intron variant rs17622656-A is abundantly current in European and American populations. The present research reviews that COVID-19 pathology is ruled by the increased expression of IRF1 and decrease expression of insulin/IGF signaling pathway molecules. 

Hormonal remedy in the type of dihydrotestosterone and dexamethasone has successfully decreased the gene expression of IRF1. These findings led the researchers to hypothesize that this remedy may improve the insulin/IGF signaling pathway in SARS-CoV-2 contaminated cells and tissues and, consequently, enhance mobile signaling. 

This discovering strongly signifies that SARS-CoV-2 an infection not solely impacts respiratory tracts but in addition impairs endocrine and metabolic cells and tissues. Identifying the molecular foundation of those pathological observations may subsequently help in the improvement of future COVID-19 therapeutics. 

Impairment of the insulin/IGF signaling pathway in cells and tissues of the liver, lungs, and pancreas results in the improvement of multiorgan dysfunction. Since COVID-19 causes impairment of the insulin/IGF signaling pathway, it’s also related to the downregulation of varied metabolic pathways together with the citrate cycle, lipid metabolism, beta-oxidation, amino acid metabolism, and carbohydrate metabolism, and respiratory electron transport.

The researchers additionally emphasised the potential for COVID-19-mediated irritation to induce insulin resistance in numerous cells and tissues.


The present research confirmed that dihydrotestosterone and dexamethasone therapies may ameliorate insulin resistance and metabolic abnormalities in COVID-19 sufferers. In the future, extra physiological, pathological, and pharmacological experiments have to be performed to estimate the scientific efficacy of this remedy in COVID-19 sufferers.

Journal reference:

  • Shin, J., Toyoda, S., Nishitani, S., et al. (2022) SARS-CoV-2 an infection impairs the insulin/IGF signaling pathway in the lung, liver, adipose tissue, and pancreatic cells by way of IRF1. Metabolism 133. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2022.155236

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