We previously reported that SB203580, an inhibitor of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK), attenuates insulin-stimulated glucose uptake without altering GLUT4 translocation. These results suggested that insulin might activate GLUT4 via a p38 MAPK-dependent pathway. Here we explore this hypothesis by temporal and kinetic analyses of the stimulation of GLUT4 translocation, glucose uptake and activation of p38 MAPK isoforms by insulin. In L6 myotubes stably expressing GLUT4 with an exofacial Myc epitope, we found that GLUT4 translocation (t1/2 = 2.5min) preceded the stimulation of 2-deoxyglucose uptake (t1/2 = 6min). This segregation of glucose uptake from GLUT4 translocation became more apparent when the two parameters were measured at 22°C. Preincubation with the p38 MAPK inhibitors SB202190 and SB203580 reduced insulin-stimulated transport of either 2-deoxyglucose or 3-O-methylglucose by 40–60%. Pretreatment with SB203580 lowered the apparent transport Vmax of insulin-mediated 2-deoxyglucose and 3-O-methylglucose without any significant change in the apparent Km for either hexose. The IC50 values for the partial inhibition of 2-deoxyglucose uptake by SB202190 and SB203580 were 1 and 2μM respectively, and correlated with the IC50 for full inhibition of p38 MAPK by the two inhibitors in myotubes (2 and 1.4μM, respectively). Insulin caused a dose- (EC50 = 15nM) and time- (t1/2 = 3min) dependent increase in p38 MAPK phosphorylation, which peaked at 10min (2.3±0.3-fold). In vitro kinase assay of immunoprecipitates from insulin-stimulated myotubes showed activation of p38α (2.6±0.3-fold) and p38β (2.3±0.2-fold) MAPK. These results suggest that activation of GLUT4 follows GLUT4 translocation and that both mechanisms contribute to the full stimulation of glucose uptake by insulin. Furthermore, activation of GLUT4 may occur via an SB203580-sensitive pathway, possibly involving p38 MAPK.

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