Affiliation: Program in Molecular Structure & Function, Research Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1X8.
Insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome are associated with fasting and postprandial dyslipidemia. This involves the hepatic and intestinal overproduction of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) and chylomicron particles, respectively, which give rise to atherogenic remnants upon lipolysis in the circulation. Recently, the insulin secretagogue glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) has received attention not only as an anti-diabetic therapy for regulating glycaemia, but also as a regulator of lipid and lipoprotein metabolism. In fact, agents that raise endogenous bioactive levels of GLP-1 (dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitors) and agents that directly stimulate GLP-1 receptors (GLP-1 receptor agonists) have been assessed in both preclinical and clinical trials for their ability to modulate plasma lipid parameters. Here we describe current evidence supporting a role for GLP-1 in preventing elevated intestinal chylomicron output and postprandial hypertriglyceridemia – an independent predictor of cardiovascular risk. Furthermore, we examine a role for GLP-1 in regulating fasting hepatic VLDL production and hindering the development of a potentially devastating comorbidity, hepatic steatosis. Possible mechanisms of action of GLP-1 are discussed including a reduction in intestinal absorption of dietary lipid and enhanced hepatic fatty acid oxidation or autophagy. Finally, we discuss the current controversy over whether these effects could occur via direct receptor stimulation or alternative, indirect pathways. We conclude that GLP- 1-based therapies appear promising in the management of diabetic dyslipidemia, and further studies are warranted to elucidate their mechanisms of action in both the intestine and liver.