Glucocorticoids reportedly induce insulin resistance. In this study, we investigated the mechanism of glucocorticoid-induced insulin resistance using 3T3-L1 adipocytes in which treatment with dexamethasone has been shown to impair the insulin-induced increase in glucose uptake. In 3T3-L1 adipocytes treated with dexamethasone, the GLUT1 protein expression level was decreased by 30%, which possibly caused decreased basal glucose uptake. On the other hand, dexamethasone treatment did not alter the amount of GLUT4 protein in total cell lysates but decreased the insulin-stimulated GLUT4 translocation to the plasma membrane, which possibly caused decreased insulin-stimulated glucose uptake. Dexamethasone did not alter tyrosine phosphorylation of insulin receptors, and it significantly decreased protein expression and tyrosine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1. Interestingly, however, protein expression and tyrosine phosphorylation of IRS-2 were increased. To investigate whether the reduced IRS-1 content is involved in insulin resistance, IRS-1 was overexpressed in dexamethasone-treated 3T3-L1 adipocytes using an adenovirus transfection system. Despite protein expression and phosphorylation levels of IRS-1 being normalized, insulin-induced 2-deoxy-D-[3H]glucose uptake impaired by dexamethasone showed no significant improvement. Subsequently, we examined the effect of dexamethasone on the glucose uptake increase induced by overexpression of GLUT2-tagged p110alpha, constitutively active Akt (myristoylated Akt), oxidative stress (30 mU glucose oxidase for 2 h), 2 mmol/l 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleoside for 30 min, and osmotic shock (600 mmol/l sorbitol for 30 min). Dexamethasone treatment clearly inhibited the increases in glucose uptake produced by these agents. Thus, in conclusion, the GLUT1 decrease may be involved in the dexamethasone-induced decrease in basal glucose transport activity, and the mechanism of dexamethasone-induced insulin resistance in glucose transport activity (rather than the inhibition of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activation resulting from a decreased IRS-1 content) is likely to underlie impaired glucose transporter regulation.

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