GLUT4 is the major glucose transporter in adipose tissue and skeletal and cardiac muscles. We examined the mechanisms underlying GLUT4 gene expression in 3T3-L1 cells, which express the gene during their differentiation from preadipocytes to adipocytes. In transient transfections, the activity of a mouse GLUT4 promoter extending to -100 bp in the 5'-flanking region did not differ significantly between 3T3-L1 preadipocytes and adipocytes. Promoter activity up to -590 bp in preadipocytes and adipocytes showed a 70% lower and 228% higher activity, respectively, than promoter activity extending to -100 bp. We also examined methylation status of the GLUT4 promoter. Up to -100 bp, there were five CpG sites at -11, -30, -58, -63, and -75 bp. Two CpG sites at -11 and -30 bp were highly methylated in preadipocytes (60 and 92%, respectively) and highly demethylated in adipocytes (28.6 and 25%, respectively). Conversely, three CpG sites at -58, -63, and -75 bp were highly demethylated in both preadipocytes and adipocytes (<12%). In gel mobility-shift assays, a fragment extending from -40 to -1 bp generated a methylation-sensitive band with nuclear extracts from both preadipocytes and adipocytes when the CpG sites were methylated. Southwestern analysis identified a protein of approximately 55 kDa that bound strongly to the methylated probe. Furthermore, methylation of the CpG sites inhibited promoters extending to -50 or -70 bp. These results suggest that in addition to cell type-specific transcription factor, methylation of specific CpG sites and the methylation-sensitive transcription factor contribute to GLUT4 gene regulation during 3T3-L1 differentiation.

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