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Progressive development of insulin resistance phenotype in male mice with complete aromatase (CYP19) deficiency.

[aromatase deficiency]

Aromatase (CYP19) is a cytochrome P450 enzyme that catalyzes the formation of aromatic C18 estrogens from C19 androgens. It is expressed in various tissues and contributes to sex-specific differences in cellular metabolism. We have generated aromatase-knockout (ArKO) mice in order to study the role of estrogen in the regulation of glucose metabolism. The mean body weights of male ArKO (-/-) mice (n=7) and wild-type littermates (+/+) (n=7) at 10 and 12 weeks of age were 26.7+/-1.9 g vs 26.1+/-0.8 g and 28.8+/-1.4 g vs 26.9+/-1.0 g respectively. The body weights of the ArKO and wild-type mice diverged between 10 and 12 weeks of age with the ArKO males weighing significantly more than their wild-type littermates (P<0.05). The ArKO males showed significantly higher blood glucose levels during an intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test compared with wild-type littermates beginning at 18 weeks of age. By 24 weeks of age, they had higher fasting blood glucose levels compared with wild-type littermates (133.8+/-22.8 mg/dl vs 87.8+/-20.3 mg/dl respectively; P<0.01). An intraperitoneal injection of insulin (0.75 mU insulin/g) caused a continuous decline in blood glucose levels in wild-type mice whereas ArKO males at 18 weeks and older exhibited a rebound increase in glucose levels 30 min after insulin injection. Thus, ArKO male mice appear to develop glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in an age-dependent manner. There was no difference in fasting serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels between ArKO male mice and wild-type littermates at 13 and 25 weeks of age. However, serum triglyceride and cholesterol levels were significantly elevated following a meal in ArKO mice at 36 weeks of age. Serum testosterone levels in ArKO male mice were continuously higher compared with wild-type littermates. Treatment of ArKO males with 17beta-estradiol improved the glucose response as measured by intraperitoneal glucose and insulin tolerance tests. Treatment with fibrates and thiazolidinediones also led to an improvement in insulin resistance and reduced androgen levels. As complete aromatase deficiency in man is associated with insulin resistance, obesity and hyperlipidemia, the ArKO mouse may be a useful animal model for examining the role of estrogens in the control of glucose and lipid homeostasis.