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Eur J Biochem. 2003 Sep;270(18):3829-38.

Use of lithium and SB-415286 to explore the role of glycogen synthase kinase-3 in the regulation of glucose transport and glycogen synthase.

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Division of Molecular Physiology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, UK.


Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) is inactivated by insulin and lithium and, like insulin, Li also activates glycogen synthase (GS) via inhibition of GSK3. Li also mimics insulin's ability to stimulate glucose transport (GT), an observation that has led to the suggestion that GSK3 may coordinate hormonal increases in GT and glycogen synthesis. Here we have used Li and SB-415286, a selective GSK3 inhibitor, to establish the importance of GSK3 in the hormonal activation of GT in terms of its effect on GS in L6 myotubes and 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Insulin, Li and SB-415286 all induced a significant inhibition of GSK3, which was associated with a marked dephosphorylation and activation of GS. In L6 myotubes, SB-415286 induced a much greater activation of GS (6.8-fold) compared to that elicited by insulin (4.2-fold) or Li (4-fold). In adipocytes, insulin, Li and SB-415286 all caused a comparable activation of GS despite a substantial differentiation-linked reduction in GSK3 expression ( approximately 85%) indicating that GSK3 remains an important determinant of GS activation in fat cells. Whilst Li and SB-415286 both inhibit GSK3 in muscle and fat cells, only Li stimulated GT. This increase in GT was not sensitive to inhibitors of PI3-kinase, MAP kinase or mTOR, but was suppressed by the p38 MAP kinase inhibitor, SB-203580. Consistent with this, phosphorylation of p38 MAP kinase induced by Li correlated with its stimulatory effect on GT. Our findings support a crucial role for GSK3 in the regulation of GS, but based on the differential effects of Li and SB-415286, it is unlikely that acute inhibition of GSK3 contributes towards the rapid stimulation of GT by insulin in muscle and fat cells.

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