Insulin resistance in muscle, adipocytes and liver is a gateway to a number of metabolic diseases. Here, we show a selective deficiency in mitochondrial coenzyme Q (CoQ) in insulin-resistant adipose and muscle tissue. This defect was observed in a range of in vitro insulin resistance models and adipose tissue from insulin-resistant humans and was concomitant with lower expression of mevalonate/CoQ biosynthesis pathway proteins in most models. Pharmacologic or genetic manipulations that decreased mitochondrial CoQ triggered mitochondrial oxidants and insulin resistance while CoQ supplementation in either insulin-resistant cell models or mice restored normal insulin sensitivity. Specifically, lowering of mitochondrial CoQ caused insulin resistance in adipocytes as a result of increased superoxide/hydrogen peroxide production via complex II. These data suggest that mitochondrial CoQ is a proximal driver of mitochondrial oxidants and insulin resistance, and that mechanisms that restore mitochondrial CoQ may be effective therapeutic targets for treating insulin resistance.
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