Microcystin-LR disrupts insulin signaling by hyperphosphorylating insulin receptor substrate 1 and glycogen synthase

Jinghui Liu, Chun Xu, Shaofeng Zhang, Haoyan Li, Kele Chen, Pu Huang, Zonglou Guo, Lihong Xu

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10 Scopus citations


Microcystin-LR (MC-LR) is a cyanobacteria-derived heptapeptide that has been commonly characterized as a hepatotoxin. Although the liver is a primary organ in glucose homeostasis, the effect of MC-LR on glucose metabolism remains unclear. In this study, the human liver cell line HL7702 and ICR mice were exposed to various concentrations of MC-LR for 24 h, and the proteins involved in insulin signaling were investigated. The results showed that MC-LR treatment induced the hyperphosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1) at several serine sites, S307, S323, S636/639, and S1101 in HL7702 cells, and S302, S318, S632/635, and S1097 in mice livers. In addition, the activation of S6K1 was demonstrated to play an important role in MC-LR-induced IRS1 hyperphosphorylation at several serine sites. Decreased levels of total IRS1 were observed in the mice livers, but there was no significant change in HL7702 cells. MC-LR also induced glycogen synthase (GS) hyperphosphorylation at S641 (inactivating GS) both in vitro and in vivo, even glycogen synthase kinase 3, a well-known GS kinase, was inactivated after MC-LR treatment. Moreover, MC-LR could block insulin-induced GS activation. In addition, glucose transport in liver cells was not impacted by MC-LR either with or without insulin stimulation. Our study implies that MC-LR can interfere with the actions of IRS1 and GS in insulin signaling and may have a toxic effect on glucose metabolism in the liver.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-22
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • S6K1
  • glycogen synthase
  • insulin receptor substrate 1
  • microcystin-LR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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