Hepatic glycogen synthesis is impaired in insulin-dependent diabetic rats and in adrenalectomized starved rats, and although this is known to be due to defective activation of glycogen synthase by glycogen synthase phosphatase, the underlying molecular mechanism has not been delineated. Glycogen synthase phosphatase comprises the catalytic subunit of protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) complexed with the hepatic glycogen-binding subunit, termed GL. In liver extracts of insulin-dependent diabetic and adrenalectomized starved rats, the level of GL was shown by immunoblotting to be substantially reduced compared with that in control extracts, whereas the level of PP1 catalytic subunit was not affected by these treatments. Insulin administration to diabetic rats restored the level of GL and prolonged administration raised it above the control levels, whereas re-feeding partially restored the GL level in adrenalectomized starved rats. The regulation of GL protein levels by insulin and starvation/feeding was shown to correlate with changes in the level of the GL mRNA, indicating that the long-term regulation of the hepatic glycogen-associated form of PP1 by insulin, and hence the activity of hepatic glycogen synthase, is predominantly mediated through changes in the level of the GL mRNA.

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