Visfatin, also known as pre-B cell colony-enhancing factor (PBEF), is a cytokine that is highly expressed in visceral fat and was originally isolated as a secreted factor that synergizes with IL-7 and stem cell factors to promote the growth of B cell precursors. Visfatin homologs have been identified in carp, invertebrate mollusks, and bacteria, as well as in vertebrates, including humans and the mouse. It has been postulated to play a role in innate immunity.
Visfatin exerts insulin-mimetic effects that are dose-dependent and quantitatively similar to those of insulin in stimulating muscle and adipocyte glucose transport, and in inhibiting hepatocyte glucose production. Intravenous injection of recombinant visfatin in mice decreased plasma glucose in a dose-dependent fashion. In keeping with its insulin-mimetic effects, visfatin was as effective as insulin in reducing hyperglycemia in insulin-deficient diabetic mice. Visfatin was also found to be bound to and activate insulin receptor, causing receptor phosphorylation and the activation of downstream signaling molecules. However, visfatin and insulin did not compete for binding to the insulin receptor, indicating that the two proteins were recognized by different regions of the receptor. Thus, visfatin might play a role in glucose homeostasis and dysregulation in biosynthesis or signal transduction, and might contribute to the pathogenesis of diabetes.
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