The effects of changes in cell volume and pH on glycogen synthesis and glycolysis and their control by insulin were investigated in hepatocyte cultures. 1. Cell acidification, by increasing [CO2] from 2.5% to 5%, inhibited glycolysis and stimulated glycogen synthesis. The inhibition of glycolysis was also observed in Na(+)-free media and when K+ uptake was inhibited, but the stimulation of glycogen synthesis was abolished under these conditions, suggesting that it is secondary to ionic or volume changes. Alkalinization had converse effects on glycolysis and glycogen synthesis. 2. In HCO3(-)-containing media, replacement of NaCl with sodium acetate or potassium acetate, like acidification with CO2, inhibited glycolysis and stimulated glycogen synthesis. The latter correlated with an increase in cation content. Amiloride, an inhibitor of Na+/H+ exchange, inhibited both the increase in cation content and the stimulation of glycogen synthesis, suggesting that the latter is secondary to cell swelling. 3. Hypo-osmotic swelling increased glycogen synthesis in HCO3(-)-containing media, in both the absence and the presence of Na+ and at both 2.5% and 5% CO2, but it increased glycolysis in the presence of Na+ and at 2.5%, but not at 5%, CO2. In HCO3(-)-free media, during acidification and swelling, glycogen synthesis correlated with pH and not with cell volume, indicating that inhibition by acidification over-rides stimulation by swelling. 4. Stimulation of glycolysis by insulin was not additive with stimulation by alkalinization. The stimulation of glycogen synthesis by insulin was partially suppressed under alkaline conditions; it was markedly suppressed in isosmolar Na(+)-free media and restored by hypo-osmotic swelling. In hypo-osmolar Na(+)-free media insulin prevented the decrease in glycogen synthesis with decreasing [HCO3-], suggesting that it counteracts inhibition by acidification. 5. It is concluded that glycogen synthesis and glycolysis are both stimulated by cell swelling and inhibited by acidification, under certain conditions, but glycolysis is more sensitive to inhibition by acidification and glycogen synthesis to stimulation by swelling. Consequently, simultaneous swelling and acidification is associated with inhibition of glycolysis and stimulation of glycogen synthesis. Stimuli that cause swelling and alkalinization activate both glycogen synthesis and glycolysis, alkalinization being more important in control of glycolysis and swelling in control of glycogen synthesis. Both cell swelling and alkalinization are components of the mechanism by which insulin controls glycogen synthesis and glycolysis.

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