BACKGROUND: The Pro12Ala polymorphism of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma gene has been associated in some, but not all, studies with lower body mass index (BMI) and improved insulin sensitivity; how an altered transcriptional activity of PPARgamma2 could influence insulin sensitivity is currently unclear. The free fatty acids (FFAs) released from adipose tissue triglycerides via lipolysis are key mediators of impaired insulin sensitivity; however, no study has described the relationship of the Pro12Ala mutation with circulating levels of FFAs under physiological conditions. OBJECTIVE: To investigate in a population-based sample of Caucasians the relation of the Pro12Ala polymorphism with plasma concentrations of FFAs and other markers of lipid and glucose metabolism described as components of the insulin resistance syndrome. SUBJECTS: Four hundred and thirty-eight nondiabetic employees of the Italian Telephone Company, aged 35-65 years, randomly selected from a total population of 3900 participants in a company-sponsored health screening. MEASUREMENTS: The Pro12Ala polymorphism of the PPARgamma was studied together with plasma FFAs, insulin, glucose, triglycerides, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure and anthropometry. The Homeostatic Model Assessment (HOMA) index was calculated as a measure of insulin resistance. RESULTS: Carriers and noncarriers of the Pro12Ala polymorphism showed very similar circulating levels of FFA (0.46 +/- 0.2 vs. 0.47 +/- 0.2, NS); plasma glucose, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and blood pressure were also similar in the two groups with or without the polymorphism. To allow for the possible confounding effect of obesity, a separate analysis was conducted in overweight (BMI > or = 25 kg/m(2)) and normal-weight people (BMI < 25 kg/m(2)). Circulating plasma FFA concentrations, as well as triglycerides, blood pressure and HOMA, were significantly higher in overweight than normal-weight, as expected, but no significant differences were detected between carriers and noncarriers of the Pro12Ala polymorphism within each BMI group (0.49 +/- 0.2 vs. 0.48 +/- 0.2, NS, and 0.44 +/- 0.2 vs. 0.47 +/- 0.2, NS, in overweight and normal-weight, respectively). The Pro12Ala polymorphism was also analysed across increasing quartiles of FFA concentrations and no relationship was observed between the frequency of the polymorphism and FFA values (overall chi2 = 0.48, NS). CONCLUSION: This study does not show any relationship between the Pro12Ala polymorphism of the PPARgamma gene and fasting FFAs in the general population. The possibility of a different handling of FFAs under different conditions (i.e. postprandial) cannot be excluded and remains to be explored.
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