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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Jan;290(1):E154-E162. Epub 2005 Aug 23.

Muscle glycogen inharmoniously regulates glycogen synthase activity, glucose uptake, and proximal insulin signaling.

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Department of Physiology, National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway.


Insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and incorporation of glucose into skeletal muscle glycogen contribute to physiological regulation of blood glucose concentration. In the present study, glucose handling and insulin signaling in isolated rat muscles with low glycogen (LG, 24-h fasting) and high glycogen (HG, refed for 24 h) content were compared with muscles with normal glycogen (NG, rats kept on their normal diet). In LG, basal and insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis and glycogen synthase activation were higher and glycogen synthase phosphorylation (Ser(645), Ser(649), Ser(653), Ser(657)) lower than in NG. GLUT4 expression, insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, and PKB phosphorylation were higher in LG than in NG, whereas insulin receptor tyrosyl phosphorylation, insulin receptor substrate-1-associated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activity, and GSK-3 phosphorylation were unchanged. Muscles with HG showed lower insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis and glycogen synthase activation than NG despite similar dephosphorylation. Insulin signaling, glucose uptake, and GLUT4 expression were similar in HG and NG. This discordant regulation of glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in HG resulted in higher insulin-stimulated glucose 6-phosphate concentration, higher glycolytic flux, and intracellular accumulation of nonphosphorylated 2-deoxyglucose. In conclusion, elevated glycogen synthase activation, glucose uptake, and GLUT4 expression enhance glycogen resynthesis in muscles with low glycogen. High glycogen concentration per se does not impair proximal insulin signaling or glucose uptake. "Insulin resistance" is observed at the level of glycogen synthase, and the reduced glycogen synthesis leads to increased levels of glucose 6-phosphate, glycolytic flux, and accumulation of nonphosphorylated 2-deoxyglucose.

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