Insulin stimulation of the trafficking of the glucose transporter GLUT4 to the plasma membrane is controlled in part by the phosphorylation of the Rab GAP (GTPase-activating protein) AS160 (also known as Tbc1d4). Considerable evidence indicates that the phosphorylation of this protein by Akt (protein kinase B) leads to suppression of its GAP activity and results in the elevation of the GTP form of a critical Rab. The present study examines a similar Rab GAP, Tbc1d1, about which very little is known. We found that the Rab specificity of the Tbc1d1 GAP domain is identical with that of AS160. Ectopic expression of Tbc1d1 in 3T3-L1 adipocytes blocked insulin-stimulated GLUT4 translocation to the plasma membrane, whereas a point mutant with an inactive GAP domain had no effect. Insulin treatment led to the phosphorylation of Tbc1d1 on an Akt site that is conserved between Tbc1d1 and AS160. These results show that Tbc1d1 regulates GLUT4 translocation through its GAP activity, and is a likely Akt substrate. An allele of Tbc1d1 in which Arg125 is replaced by tryptophan has very recently been implicated in susceptibility to obesity by genetic analysis. We found that this form of Tbc1d1 also inhibited GLUT4 translocation and that this effect also required a functional GAP domain.

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