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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Endocrine Disorders 1/2018

Reintroducing testosterone in the db/db mouse partially restores normal glucose metabolism and insulin resistance in a leptin-independent manner

BMC Endocrine Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2018
Koichi Yabiku, Keiko Nakamoto, Akihiro Tokushige
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12902-018-0266-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Testosterone signals through the androgen receptor (AR) and AR knockout mice develop obesity, suggesting a functional association between AR and leptin signaling. Furthermore, physiological blood concentrations of testosterone have been found to inhibit the development of arteriosclerosis, obesity and diabetes. However, these findings have not been verified by testosterone replacement in animal models and whether or not testosterone acts directly by activating AR to enhance leptin signaling, or indirectly by its conversion into estrogen remains unclear. Therefore, we investigated the effect of exogenously supplemented testosterone on glucose and lipid metabolism.


Four-week-old male leptin receptor-knockout db/db mice were used as controls for a model of obesity retaining low testosterone. Mice were divided into sham-operated, castrated, or castrated and testosterone-supplemented groups and fed a high-fat diet (HFD) for 2 weeks from 5 weeks of age. Testosterone concentrations, blood glucose, plasma insulin levels, and intraperitoneal glucose tolerance and insulin tolerance were measured. At 7 weeks, triglyceride and glycogen content were measured in the liver and muscle. Lipid accumulation in the liver and soleus muscle was determined by immunohistochemistry with Oil Red O. Statistical analyses were performed using the Student’s t-test or ANOVA where applicable.


Lower testosterone levels in db/db mice compared with wild type (WT) db/+ mice were associated with glucose intolerance and fatty liver. Furthermore, castrated male db/db mice at 4 weeks of age progressively developed glucose intolerance accompanying a 15% increase in liver fat. Male mice fed a HFD had lower levels of testosterone compared with those fed a normal diet. We found that exogenous testosterone replacement injected subcutaneously into castrated male db/db mice alleviated the exacerbation of fatty liver and glucose intolerance, suggesting a leptin-independent mechanism. This mechanism is most likely mediated through gonadal axis suppression in this mouse model.


In summary, testosterone may use a novel pathway to complement leptin signaling to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism, and thus offers a new therapeutic target to treat metabolic disorders.
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