Glucose transport by facilitated diffusion is mediated by a family of tissue-specific membrane glycoproteins. At least four members of this gene family have been identified by cDNA cloning. The HepG2-type transporter is the most widely distributed of these proteins. It provides many cells with their basal glucose requirement for ATP production and the biosynthesis of sugar-containing macromolecules. The liver-type transporter is expressed in tissues from which a net release of glucose can occur and in β-cells of pancreatic islets. A genetic defect resulting in reduced activity of this transporter could hypothetically lead to the two principal features of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance and relative hypoinsulinemia. The adipocyte/muscle transporter is expressed exclusively in tissues that are insulin sensitive with respect to glucose uptake. This protein is an excellent candidate for a highly specific genetic defect predisposing to insulin resistance.

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