The effects of diabetes mellitus on glycogen synthase and its activating system (synthase phosphatase) were studied using human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN). PMN were obtained from control subjects and diabetic patients by a gradient sedimentation technique. Enzyme activities of synthase-I and total synthase were not statistically different in diabetic and control cells. For measurement of endogenous synthase phosphatase, cells were sonicated in 50 mM Tris buffer (pH 7.5) and incubated at 30°C. Conversion of endogenous synthase-D to -I was linear for 20 min and maximal by 30 min. The rate of conversion of synthase-D to -I and the maximum percent synthase-I attained were decreased in homogenates of diabetic cells. There was no correlation between the plasma glucose concentration and the rate of conversion of synthase-D to -I. Synthase phosphatase activities were also measured using a purified synthase-D substrate. Under these experimental conditions, glycogen synthase phosphatase activities did not differ in control and diabetic cells. These results are consistent with a diabetes-induced defect in conversion of endogenous synthase-D to -I at the level of the synthase enzyme rather than at that of the activating phosphatase.

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