We have previously reported that insulin increases the synthesis de novo of phosphatidic acid (PA), phosphatidylinositol (PI), phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate (PIP), phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) and diacylglycerol (DAG) in BC3H-1 myocytes and/or rat adipose tissue. Here we have further characterized these effects of insulin and examined whether there are concomitant changes in inositol phosphate generation and Ca2+ mobilization. We found that insulin provoked very rapid increases in PI content (20% within 15 s in myocytes) and, after a slight lag, PIP and PIP2 content in both BC3H-1 myocytes and rat fat pads (measured by increases in 32P or 3H content after prelabelling phospholipids to constant specific radioactivity by prior incubation with 32Pi or [3H]inositol). Insulin also increased 32Pi incorporation into these phospholipids when 32Pi was added either simultaneously with insulin or 1 h after insulin. Thus, the insulin-induced increase in phospholipid content appeared to be due to an increase in phospholipid synthesis, which was maintained for at least 2 h. Insulin increased DAG content in BC3H-1 myocytes and adipose tissue, but failed to increase the levels of inositol monophosphate (IP), inositol bisphosphate (IP2) or inositol trisphosphate (IP3). The failure to observe an increase in IP3 (a postulated ‘second messenger’ which mobilizes intracellular Ca2+) was paralleled by a failure to observe an insulin-induced increase in the cytosolic concentration of Ca2+ in BC3H-1 myocytes as measured by Quin 2 fluorescence. Like insulin, the phorbol diester 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA) increased the transport of 2-deoxyglucose and aminoisobutyric acid in BC3H-1 myocytes. These effects of insulin and TPA appeared to be independent of extracellular Ca2+. We conclude that the phospholipid synthesis de novo effect of insulin is provoked very rapidly, and is attended by increases in DAG but not IP3 or Ca2+ mobilization. The insulin-induced increase in DAG does not appear to be a consequence of phospholipase C acting upon the expanded PI + PIP + PIP2 pool, but may be derived directly from PA. Our findings suggest the possibility that DAG (through protein kinase C activation) may function as an important intracellular ‘messenger’ for controlling metabolic processes during insulin action.

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