The effects of temperature alterations between 22 degrees C and 48 degrees C on basal and insulin-stimulated 2-deoxy-D-[1-14C]glucose uptake were examined in isolated rat adipocytes. A distinct optimum was found near physiological temperature for uptake in the presence of maximally effective insulin concentrations where insulin stimulation and hexose uptake were both conducted at each given assay temperature. Basal uptake was only subtly affected. Control and maximally insulin-stimulated cells incubated at 35 degrees C subsequently exhibited minimal temperature-sensitivity of uptake measured between 30 and 43 degrees C. The data are mostly consistent with the concept that insulin-sensitive glucose transporters are, after stimulation by insulin, functionally similar to basal transporters. Adipocyte plasma membranes were labelled with various spin- and fluorescence-label probes in lipid structural studies. The temperature-dependence of the order parameter S calculated from membranes labelled with 5-nitroxide stearate indicated the presence of a lipid phase change at approx. 33 degrees C. Membranes labelled with the fluorescence label 1,6-diphenylhexa-1,3,5-triene, or the cholesterol-like spin label nitroxide cholestane, reveal sharp transitions at lower temperatures. We suggest that a thermotropic lipid phase separation occurs in the adipocyte membrane that may be correlated with the temperature-dependence of hexose transport and insulin action in the intact cells.

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