To explore potential cellular mechanisms by which activation of the hexosamine pathway induces insulin resistance, we have evaluated insulin signaling in conscious fasted rats infused for 2-6 h with saline, insulin (18 mU x kg(-1) x min(-1)), or insulin and glucosamine (30 micromol x kg(-1) x min(-1)) under euglycemic conditions. Glucosamine infusion increased muscle UDP-N-acetylglucosamine concentrations 3.9- and 4.3-fold over saline- or insulin-infused animals, respectively (P < 0.001). Glucosamine induced significant insulin resistance to glucose uptake both at the level of the whole body and in rectus abdominis muscle, and it blunted the insulin-induced increase in muscle glycogen content. At a cellular level, these metabolic effects were paralleled by inhibition of postreceptor insulin signaling critical for glucose transport and glycogen storage, including a 45% reduction in insulin-stimulated insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 tyrosine phosphorylation (P = 0.02), a 44% decrease in IRS-1 association with the p85 regulatory subunit of phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase (P = 0.03), a 34% reduction in IRS-1-associated PI 3-kinase activity (P = 0.03), and a 51% reduction in insulin-stimulated glycogen synthase activity (P = 0.03). These alterations in postreceptor insulin signaling were time-dependent and paralleled closely the progressive inhibition of systemic glucose disposal from 2 to 6 h of glucosamine infusion. We also demonstrated that glucosamine infusion results in O-linked N-acetylglucosamine modification of IRS-1 and IRS-2. These data indicate that activation of the hexosamine pathway may directly modulate early postreceptor insulin signal transduction, perhaps via posttranslation modification of IRS proteins, and thus contribute to the insulin resistance induced by chronic hyperglycemia.

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