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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Sep 12;92(19):8535-42.

In vivo regulation of muscle glycogen synthase and the control of glycogen synthesis.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


The activity of glycogen synthase (GSase; EC is regulated by covalent phosphorylation. Because of this regulation, GSase has generally been considered to control the rate of glycogen synthesis. This hypothesis is examined in light of recent in vivo NMR experiments on rat and human muscle and is found to be quantitatively inconsistent with the data under conditions of glycogen synthesis. Our first experiments showed that muscle glycogen synthesis was slower in non-insulin-dependent diabetics compared to normals and that their defect was in the glucose transporter/hexokinase (GT/HK) part of the pathway. From these and other in vivo NMR results a quantitative model is proposed in which the GT/HK steps control the rate of glycogen synthesis in normal humans and rat muscle. The flux through GSase is regulated to match the proximal steps by "feed forward" to glucose 6-phosphate, which is a positive allosteric effector of all forms of GSase. Recent in vivo NMR experiments specifically designed to test the model are analyzed by metabolic control theory and it is shown quantitatively that the GT/HK step controls the rate of glycogen synthesis. Preliminary evidence favors the transporter step. Several conclusions are significant: (i) glucose transport/hexokinase controls the glycogen synthesis flux; (ii) the role of covalent phosphorylation of GSase is to adapt the activity of the enzyme to the flux and to control the metabolite levels not the flux; (iii) the quantitative data needed for inferring and testing the present model of flux control depended upon advances of in vivo NMR methods that accurately measured the concentration of glucose 6-phosphate and the rate of glycogen synthesis.

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