Glucosamine infusion induces insulin resistance in vivo, but the effect of glucosamine on intracellular metabolites of the hexosamine pathway, especially glucosamine-6-phosphate (GlcN6P) is unknown. Because of the structural similarity of glucose-6-phosphate (G-6-P) and GlcN6P, we hypothesized that accumulation of this metabolite might alter the activities of enzymes such as glycogen synthase and hexokinase. We infused glucosamine (30 micromol x kg(-1) x min(-1)) to induce insulin resistance in rats during a euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp. Glucosamine induced whole-body insulin resistance, which was apparent after 90 min and continued progressively for 360 min. Despite inducing severe whole-body insulin resistance and decrease in glycogen synthase fractional activity in rectus abdominis muscle (69+/-3 vs. 83+/-1%, P<0.01) and heart (7+/-1 vs. 32+/-4%, P<0.001), glucosamine did not change the glycogen content in rectus and even increased it in the heart (209+/-13 vs. 117+/-9 mmol/kg dry wt, P<0.001). Glucosamine increased tissue concentrations of UDP-GlcNAc 4.4- and 4.6-fold in rectus abdominis and heart, respectively. However, GlcN6P concentrations increased 500- and 700-fold in glucosamine-infused animals in rectus abdominis (590+/-80 vs. 1.2+/-0.1 micromol/kg wet wt, P<0.001) and heart (7,703+/-993 vs. 11.2+/-2.3 micromol/kg wet wt, P<0.001). To assess the possible significance of GlcN6P accumulation, we measured the effect of GlcN6P on glycogen synthase and hexokinase activity in vitro. At the GlcN6P concentrations measured in rectus abdominis and heart in vivo, glycogen synthase was activated by 21 and 542%, while similar concentrations inhibited hexokinase activity by 5 and 46%, respectively. This study demonstrates that infusion of glucosamine during a euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp results in marked accumulation of intracellular GlcN6P. The GlcN6P concentrations in the heart and rectus abdominis muscle reach levels sufficient to cause allosteric activation of glycogen synthase and inhibition of hexokinase.

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