When rat pancreatic islets are incubated in 5.5 or 16.7 mmol/1 glucose for 3 h, an increased sensitivity is observed in islets pre-exposed to high glucose, as indicated by a shift to the left of the glucose dose-response curve (EC50 7.1 ± 0.9 and 11.5 ± 1.2 in high- and low-glucose-exposed islets, respectively; n = 5, P < 0.05). To investigate the mechanism(s) responsible for this effect, we measured hexokinase and glucokinase activity both in the cytosolic fraction and in a mitochondrion-enriched fraction, since binding to the outer mitochondrial membrane has been reported to result in an increased enzyme activity. In islets cultured at 16.7 mmol/1 glucose, the cytosolic hexokinase activity was similar to control islets, but mitochondrial enzyme activity was significantly increased (124 ± 7 vs. 51 ± 9 nmol · µg−1 · 90 min−1, P < 0.01). As a consequence, the cytosolicrmitochondrial fraction ratio was altered in comparison with control islets. In contrast, glucokinase activity in the two groups of islets was similar in the cytosolic fraction and undetectable in the mitochodrial fraction. Hexokinase I quantitation by Western blot confirmed the enzyme translocation from the free cytosolic to the mitochondria-bound form in islets cultured at 16.7 mmol/l glucose. Glucose-induced alterations were reversible after 1 h exposure to 5.5 mmol/l glucose. Moreover, in islets exposed to 16.7 mmol/l glucose, inhibition of hexokinase binding to mitochondria by the addition of 20 nmol/1 dicyclohexylcarbodiimide resulted in no increase of glucose sensitivity (EC50 10.9 ± 0.4, n = 3, similar to that of control islets). These data indicate that after chronic exposure to high glucose, the β-cell becomes more sensitive to glucose before eventually getting desensitized. This increased sensitivity is associated with (and may be due to) an increased hexokinase activity secondary to a subcellular shift of the enzyme from the free cytosolic to the mitochondriabound, more active form.

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