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J Cell Biochem. 1992 Jan;48(1):51-60.

Acute and chronic signals controlling glucose transport in skeletal muscle.

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  • 1Division of Cell Biology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Glucose transport into muscle cells occurs through facilitated diffusion mediated primarily by the GLUT1 and GLUT4 glucose transporters. These transporter proteins are controlled by acute and chronic exposure to insulin, glucose, muscle contraction, and hypoxia. We propose that acute responses occur through recruitment of pre-formed glucose transporters from an intracellular storage site to the plasma membrane. In contrast, chronic control is achieved by changes in transporter biosynthesis and protein stability. Using subcellular fractionation of rat skeletal muscle, recruitment of GLUT4 glucose transporters to the plasma membrane is demonstrated by acute exposure to insulin in vivo. The intracellular pool appears to arise from a unique organelle depleted of transverse tubule, plasma membrane, or sarcoplasmic reticulum markers. In diabetic rats, GLUT4 content in the plasma membranes and in the intracellular pool is reduced, and incomplete insulin-dependent GLUT4 recruitment is observed, possibly through a defective incorporation of transporters to the plasma membrane. The lower content of GLUT4 transporters in the muscle plasma membranes is reversed by restoration of normoglycemia with phlorizin treatment. In some muscle cells in culture, GLUT1 is the only transporter expressed yet they respond to insulin, suggesting that this transporter can also be regulated by acute mechanisms. In the L6 muscle cell line, GLUT1 transporter content diminishes during myogenesis and GLUT4 appears after cell fusion, reaching a molar ratio of about 1:1 in the plasma membrane. Prolonged exposure to high glucose diminishes the amount of GLUT1 protein in the plasma membrane by both endocytosis and reduced biosynthesis, and lowers GLUT4 protein content in the absence of changes in GLUT4 mRNA possibly through increased protein degradation. These studies suggest that the relative contribution of each transporter to transport activity, and the mechanisms by which glucose exerts control of the glucose transporters, will be key subjects of future investigations.

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