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An Acad Bras Cienc. 2015 Mar;87(1):351-68. doi: 10.1590/0001-3765201520140225. Epub 2015 Mar 6.

General aspects of muscle glucose uptake.

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Instituto do Coração, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.
Escola de Educação Física e Esportes, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.
Hospital Sírio Libanês, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.


Glucose uptake in peripheral tissues is dependent on the translocation of GLUT4 glucose transporters to the plasma membrane. Studies have shown the existence of two major signaling pathways that lead to the translocation of GLUT4. The first, and widely investigated, is the insulin activated signaling pathway through insulin receptor substrate-1 and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase. The second is the insulin-independent signaling pathway, which is activated by contractions. Individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus have reduced insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in skeletal muscle due to the phenomenon of insulin resistance. However, those individuals have normal glucose uptake during exercise. In this context, physical exercise is one of the most important interventions that stimulates glucose uptake by insulin-independent pathways, and the main molecules involved are adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, nitric oxide, bradykinin, AKT, reactive oxygen species and calcium. In this review, our main aims were to highlight the different glucose uptake pathways and to report the effects of physical exercise, diet and drugs on their functioning. Lastly, with the better understanding of these pathways, it would be possible to assess, exactly and molecularly, the importance of physical exercise and diet on glucose homeostasis. Furthermore, it would be possible to assess the action of drugs that might optimize glucose uptake and consequently be an important step in controlling the blood glucose levels in diabetic patients, in addition to being important to clarify some pathways that justify the development of drugs capable of mimicking the contraction pathway.

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