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J Biol Chem. 1994 May 20;269(20):14396-401.

Exercise induces rapid increases in GLUT4 expression, glucose transport capacity, and insulin-stimulated glycogen storage in muscle.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


GLUT4 glucose transporter content and glucose transport capacity are closely correlated in skeletal muscle. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that a rapid increase in GLUT4 expression occurs as part of the early adaptive response of muscle to exercise and serves to enhance glycogen storage. Rats exercised by swimming had a approximately 2-fold increase in GLUT4 mRNA and a 50% increase in GLUT4 protein expression in epitrochlearis muscle 16 h after one prolonged exercise session. After a 2nd day of exercise, muscle GLUT4 protein was increased further to approximately 2-fold while there was no additional increase in GLUT4 mRNA. Muscle hexokinase activity also doubled in response to 2 days of exercise. Glucose transport activity maximally stimulated with insulin, contractions, or hypoxia was increased roughly in proportion to the adaptive increase in GLUT4 protein in epitrochlearis muscles. Treatment with insulin prior to subcellular fractionation of muscle resulted in a approximately 2-fold greater increase in GLUT4 content of a plasma membrane fraction in the 2-day swimmers than in controls. When epitrochlearis muscles were incubated with glucose and insulin, glycogen accumulation over 3 h was twice as great in muscles from 2-day swimmers as in control muscles. Our results show that a rapid increase in GLUT4 expression is an early adaptive response of muscle to exercise. This adaptation appears to be mediated by pretranslational mechanisms. We hypothesize that the physiological role of this adaptation is to enhance replenishment of muscle glycogen stores.

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