Sustained hyperglycemia impairs insulin-stimulated glucose utilization in the skeletal muscle of both humans and experimental animals--a phenomenon referred to clinically as glucose toxicity. To study how this occurs, a model was developed in which hyperglycemia produces insulin resistance in vitro. Rat extensor digitorum longus muscles were preincubated for 4 h in Krebs-Henseleit solution containing glucose or glucose + insulin at various concentrations, after which insulin action was studied. Preincubation with 25 mmol/l glucose + insulin (10 mU/ml) led to a 70% decrease in the ability of insulin (10 mU/ml) to stimulate glucose incorporation into glycogen and a 30% decrease in 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG) uptake, compared with muscles incubated with 0 mmol/l glucose. Glucose incorporation into lipid and its oxidation to CO2 were marginally diminished, if at all. The alterations of glycogen synthesis and 2-DG uptake were first evident after 1 h and were maximal after 2 h of preincubation; they were not observed in muscles preincubated with 25 mmol/l glucose + insulin for 5 min. Preincubation for 4 h with 25 mmol/l glucose in the absence of insulin produced a similar although somewhat smaller decrease in insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis; however, it did not alter 2-DG uptake, glucose oxidation to CO2, or incorporation into lipids. Studies of insulin signaling in the latter muscles revealed that activation of Akt/protein kinase B (PKB) was diminished by 60%, compared with that of muscles preincubated in a glucose-free medium; whereas activation of phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase, an upstream regulator of Akt/PKB in the insulin-signaling cascade, and of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, a parallel signal, was unaffected. Immunoblots demonstrated that this was not due to a change in Akt/PKB abundance. The results indicate that hyperglycemia-induced insulin resistance can be studied in rat skeletal muscle in vitro. They suggest that impairment of insulin action in these muscles is related to inhibition of Akt/PKB by events that do not affect PI 3-kinase.

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