We investigated the effects of purified histone H4 on glucose transport activity in rat soleus and flexor digitorum brevis muscles. Histone H4, at concentrations up to 11.8 microM, increased 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG) uptake in a dose-dependent fashion. However, at concentrations higher than 11.8 microM, H4 caused a decrease in 2-DG uptake from the maximum, suggesting a secondary inhibitory action of this compound. The maximal effect of H4 on 2-DG uptake was not additive to the maximal effect of insulin. Moreover, 2-DG uptake in the presence of both H4 and insulin was significantly lower than the 2-DG uptake in the presence of insulin alone. The maximal effect of H4 on stimulation of 2-DG uptake was neither additive nor inhibitory to the maximal effects of the intracellularly acting insulin mimetics sodium vanadate or H2O2. It was, on the other hand, additive to the maximal effects of muscle contractions. Also, in contrast with the effects of H4 on insulin-stimulated 2-DG uptake, H4 did not inhibit insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I)-stimulated 2-DG uptake, as the maximal effects of H4 and IGF-I were additive. Scatchard analysis of the binding of 125I-insulin in the absence or presence of histone H4 revealed that H4 increased the specific binding of insulin without affecting receptor affinity. These data suggest that H4 interacts with the insulin, rather than the hypoxia/contraction, pathway for activation of glucose transport in muscle tissue, and that H4 acts either directly or indirectly to increase the number of insulin receptors at the surface of the muscle cell. This interaction does not appear to occur with the similar, although distinct, IGF-I receptor. These studies may provide additional insight into the complex signal-transduction systems of insulin action.

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