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Adv Exp Med Biol. 1998;441:1-16.

An overview of muscle glucose uptake during exercise. Sites of regulation.

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Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee 37232, USA.


The uptake of blood glucose by skeletal muscle is a complex process. In order to be metabolized, glucose must travel the path from blood to interstitium to intracellular space and then be phosphorylated to glucose 6-phosphate (G6P). Movement of glucose from blood to interstitium is determined by skeletal muscle blood flow, capillary recruitment and the endothelial permeability to glucose. The influx of glucose from the interstitium to intracellular space is determined by the number of glucose transporters in the sarcolemma and the glucose gradient across the sarcolemma. The capacity to phosphorylate glucose is determined by the amount of skeletal muscle hexokinase II, hexokinase II compartmentalization within the cell, and the concentration of the hexokinase II inhibitor G6P. Any change in glucose uptake occurs due to an alteration in one or more of these steps. Based on the low calculated intracellular glucose levels and the higher affinity of glucose for phosphorylation relative to transport, glucose transport is generally considered rate-determining for basal muscle glucose uptake. Exercise increases both the movement of glucose from blood to sarcolemma and the permeability of the sarcolemma to glucose. Whether the ability to phosphorylate glucose is increased in the working muscle remains to be clearly shown. It is possible that the accelerated glucose delivery and transport rates during exercise bias regulation so that muscle glucose phosphorylation exerts more control on muscle glucose uptake. Conditions that alter glucose uptake during exercise, such as increased NEFA concentrations, decreased oxygen availability and adrenergic stimulation, must work by altering one or more of the three steps involved in glucose uptake. This review describes the regulation of glucose uptake during exercise at each of these sites under a number of conditions, as well as describing muscle glucose uptake in the post-exercise state.

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