Increased routing of glucose through the hexosamine-biosynthetic pathway has been implicated in the development of glucose-induced insulin resistance of glucose transport in cultured adipocytes. Because both glucosamine and glucose enter this pathway as glucosamine-6-phosphate, we examined the effects of preincubation with glucosamine in isolated rat diaphragms and in fibroblasts overexpressing the human insulin receptor (HIR-cells). In muscles, pre-exposure to glucosamine inhibited subsequent basal and, to a greater extent, insulin-stimulated glucose transport in a time- and dose-dependent manner and abolished the stimulation by insulin of glycogen synthesis. Insulin receptor number, activation of the insulin receptor tyrosine kinase in situ and after solubilization, and the total pool of glucose transporters (GLUT4) were unaffected, and glycogen synthase was activated by glucosamine pretreatment. In HIR-cells, which express GLUT1 and not GLUT4, basal and insulin-stimulated glucose transport were unaffected by glucosamine, but glycogen synthesis was markedly inhibited. Insulin-stimulated activation of protein kinases (MAP and S6) was unaffected, and the fractional velocity and apparent total activity of glycogen synthase was increased in glucosamine-treated HIR-cells. In pulse-labeling studies, addition of glucosamine during the chase prolonged processing of insulin proreceptors to receptors and altered the electrophoretic mobility of proreceptors and processed α-subunits, consistent with altered glycosylation. Glucosamine-induced insulin resistance of glucose transport appears to be restricted to GLUT4-expressing cells, i.e., skeletal muscle and adipocytes; it may reflect impaired translocation of GLUT4 to the plasmalemma. The glucosamine-induced imbalance in UDP sugars, i.e., increased UDP-N-acetylhexosamines and decreased UDP-glucose, may alter glycosylation of critical proteins and limit the flux of glucose into glycogen.

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