Insulin-stimulated glucose transport activity in rat adipocytes is inhibited by isoprenaline and enhanced by adenosine. Both of these effects occur without corresponding changes in the subcellular distribution of the GLUT4 glucose transporter isoform. In this paper, we have utilized the impermeant, exofacial bis-mannose glucose transporter-specific photolabel, 2-N-4-(1-azi-2,2,2-trifluoroethyl)benzoyl-1,3-bis-(D-mannos- 4-yloxy)-2-propylamine (ATB-BMPA) [Clark & Holman (1990) Biochem. J. 269, 615-622], to examine the cell surface accessibility of GLUT4 glucose transporters under these conditions. Compared with cells treated with insulin alone, adenosine in the presence of insulin increased the accessibility of GLUT4 to the extracellular photolabel by approximately 25%, consistent with its enhancement of insulin-stimulated glucose transport activity; the plasma membrane concentration of GLUT4 as assessed by Western blotting was unchanged. Conversely, isoprenaline, in the absence of adenosine, promoted a time-dependent (t1/2 approximately 2 min) decrease in the accessibility of insulin-stimulated cell surface GLUT4 of > 50%, which directly correlated with the observed inhibition of transport activity; the plasma membrane concentration of GLUT4 decreased by 0-15%. Photolabelling the corresponding plasma membranes revealed that these alterations in the ability of the photolabel to bind to GLUT4 are transient, as the levels of both photolabel incorporation and plasma membrane glucose transport activity were consistent with the observed GLUT4 concentration. These data suggest that insulin-stimulated GLUT4 glucose transporters can exist in two distinct states within the adipocyte plasma membrane, one which is functional and accessible to extracellular substrate, and one which is non-functional and unable to bind extracellular substrate. These effects are only observed in the intact adipocyte and are not retained in plasma membranes isolated from these cells when analysed for their ability to transport glucose or bind photolabel.

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