The Novel Adipokine Gremlin 1 Antagonizes Insulin Action and Is Increased in Type 2 Diabetes and NAFLD/NASH
The BMP2/4 antagonist and novel adipokine, Gremlin 1, is highly expressed in human adipose cells and increased in hypertrophic obesity. As a secreted antagonist it inhibits the effect of BMP2/4 on adipose precursor cell commitment/differentiation. We examined mRNA levels of Gremlin in key target tissues for insulin and also measured tissue and serum levels in several carefully phenotyped human cohorts. Gremlin 1 expression was high in adipose tissue, higher in visceral than in subcutaneous tissue, increased in obesity and further increased in Type 2 diabetes (T2D). A similar high expression was seen in liver biopsies but expression was considerably lower in skeletal muscles. Serum levels were increased in obesity but most prominently in T2D. Transcriptional activation in both adipose tissue and liver as well as serum levels were strongly associated with markers of insulin resistance in vivo (euglycemic clamps and HOMA-IR), and the presence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We also found Gremlin 1 to antagonize insulin signaling and action in human primary adipocytes, skeletal muscle and liver cells. Thus, Gremlin 1 is a novel secreted insulin antagonist and biomarker as well as potential therapeutic target in obesity and its complications T2D and NAFLD/NASH.