Exposure of target cells to insulin results in the formation of ligand receptor complexes on the cell surface and their subsequent internalization into the endosomal apparatus. A current view is that endocytosis of the insulin receptor (IR) kinase results in its rapid deactivation and sorting of the IR back to the cell surface or to late endocytic compartments. We report herein that, in skeletal muscle, in vivo stimulation with insulin induced a rapid internalization of the IR to an insulin-sensitive GLUT4-enriched intracellular membrane fraction. After 30 min of stimulation, IR content and tyrosine phosphorylation were increased by three and nine times in that fraction, respectively, compared with unstimulated muscles. In vitro autophosphorylation assays revealed that the kinase activity of internalized IRs was markedly augmented (eight to nine times) by insulin. In marked contrast with hepatic endosomes or adipocyte low-density microsomes, no IR tyrosine dephosphorylation activity was observed in GLUT4-enriched vesicles isolated from skeletal muscle. The activated IR was recovered in immunopurified GLUT4 vesicles after insulin stimulation. Insulin also increased tyrosine-phosphorylated insulin receptor substrate 1 and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase adapter (p85) subunit contents in the intracellular membrane fraction, but these signaling molecules were not directly associated with GLUT4 vesicles. These results show that, in skeletal muscle, the activated IR reaches a GLUT4-enriched compartment where its activity is apparently sustained. We propose that compartmentalization of activated IRs to GLUT4 vesicles may play a role in sustaining insulin signaling at this locus in skeletal muscle.

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