Growth factors promote cell survival and proliferation by activating signal transduction pathways that result in progression through the cell cycle and differential gene expression. Uptake of simple sugars needed for basal cell metabolism, and for macromolecular synthesis necessary for cell growth and proliferation, is thought to follow as a consequence of signal transduction to the nucleus. However, in the presence of inhibitors of DNA synthesis and respiration, growth factors can still promote cell survival responses in the short term, raising the possibility that they may also regulate critical membrane and cytosolic processes necessary for cell survival. We have tested this hypothesis directly by investigating the role of the haemopoietic growth factor, interleukin-3 (IL-3), in the regulation of glucose transport in the bone marrow-derived cell line, 32D. We show that IL-3 promotes glucose transport by actively maintaining the affinity of the plasma membrane, glucose transporter for glucose (Km 1.35 +/- 0.15 mM, n = 4). Withdrawal of IL-3 for 1 h resulted in reduced affinity for glucose (Km 2.96 +/- 0.28 mM, n = 4) without an associated change in Vmax. Furthermore, glucose transporter molecules as the cell surface, as determined by cytochalasin B binding to isolated plasma membranes, did not differ significantly between control and IL-3-treated cells. Inhibition of DNA synthesis with mitomycin C or with the respiratory poison, sodium azide, did not affect the ability of IL-3 to promote glucose transport. In contrast, the tyrosine kinase inhibitors genistein and erbstatin extensively inhibited control and IL-3-stimulated glucose transport, some preference of IL-3-stimulated glucose transport, some preference for IL-3-stimulated responses being observed at low inhibitor concentrations. The light-activated protein kinase C inhibitor, calphostin C, also inhibited control and IL-3-stimulated glucose transport but without preference for IL-3 responses. Additionally, the tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor, orthovanadate, stimulated control and IL-3-dependent glucose transport by 50-80% while the protein kinase A inhibitor, KT5720, inhibited glucose transport by about 20% at plateau values. These results indicate that IL-3 is involved in continuous maintenance of glucose transporter activity by a mechanism that involves tyrosine kinases and protein kinase C, and demonstrate that this activation is not dependent on respiration or signal transduction to the nucleus.

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