Previous experiments have shown that insulin-induced glucose utilization is increased in white adipose tissue of young obese Zucker rats. We have investigated the possible role of over-expression of the muscle/fat glucose transporter (Glut 4) and key lipogenic enzymes in this increased insulin-responsiveness. The amount or activity and the mRNA concentrations of Glut 4, fatty acid synthase (FAS) and acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) were measured before and after weaning in white adipose tissue of obese and lean Zucker rats. Comparison of the levels of Glut 4 and lipogenic-enzyme expression in 15-day-old suckling and 30-day-old weaned rats on a high-carbohydrate diet shows a marked increase in the latter group. The increase was, in lean and obese rats respectively, 6- and 7-fold for the amount of Glut 4 and 2- and 3-fold for its mRNA concentrations, 40- and 100-fold for the activity of lipogenic enzymes (FAS and ACC) and 30- and 10-fold for their mRNA concentrations. Furthermore, all these parameters, except the amount of Glut 4, were 2-5-fold higher in obese rats, both before and after weaning. Changes at weaning were largely blunted when rats were weaned on to a high-fat diet, although the differences between lean and obese rats persisted, and even became significant for the amount of Glut 4. Whatever the experimental conditions, plasma insulin levels were significantly higher in obese than in lean rats. These results indicate the existence of an enhanced expression of Glut 4, FAS and ACC in white adipose tissue of young obese fa/fa rats which could be related to the increased plasma insulin levels.

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