We used antibodies to the fat/muscle glucose transporter (GLUT4) and the liver glucose transporter (GLUT2) to measure levels of these proteins in various tissues of two rodent models of non-insulin-dependent (type II) diabetes mellitus: the obese spontaneously diabetic male Zucker fa/fa rat (ZDF/drt) and the male viable yellow Avy/a obese diabetic mouse. The ZDF/drt strain generally develops overt diabetes associated with decreased plasma insulin levels. Depending on the age of the animals, the ZDF/drt rats can be arbitrarily segregated into age-matched obese, mildly diabetic (blood glucose < 11 mM) and obese, and severely diabetic (blood glucose > 20 mM) groups. Avy/a mice are comparably hyperglycemic but unlike the ZDF/drt rats are severely hyperinsulinemic. In both groups of diabetic animals, GLUT4 in adipose tissue, heart, and skeletal muscle was reduced 25–55%, and GLUT2 in liver was increased 30–40%, relative to lean, age-matched controls. However, when the mildly diabetic ZDF/drt rats were compared to the lean controls, the only significant difference was a 25% reduction of GLUT4 in heart. Within all of the ZDF/drt rats (excluding the lean controls), GLUT2 in liver and GLUT4 in adipose tissue, heart, and skeletal muscle correlated significantly with glycemia. These data suggest that, in these two models of type II diabetes, glucose transporter levels in muscle, adipose tissue, and liver are regulated in a tissue-selective manner in response to changes in insulin and glucose. Furthermore, at least in the ZDF/drt rat, alterations in GLUT2 and/or GLUT4 protein levels appear not to be associated with obesity per se but appear to be secondary to the severely diabetic state. In both rodent models, similar alterations in GLUT2 and/or GLUT4 levels were observed under comparable glycemia, but quite distinct insulin levels, consistent with the possibility that glucose itself may be an important contributing regulator of glucose transporter expression.

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