Osmotic shock and insulin stimulate GLUT4 translocation and glucose transport via mechanisms that are for the most part distinct yet convergent. In this article, we investigated the effect of osmotic shock and insulin on the activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades in differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes. The MAPKs are activated by phosphorylation on conserved tyrosine and threonine residues. Both sorbitol and insulin strongly stimulated extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) 1 and 2 phosphorylation (8- and 18-fold, respectively). In contrast, c-jun-NH2-terminal kinase (JNK)/stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK) phosphorylation was stimulated only by sorbitol (sevenfold) and not by insulin. Phosphorylation of p38 MAPK was stimulated strongly by sorbitol (22-fold) but weakly by insulin (2.7-fold). Measurement of intrinsic JNK and p38 MAPK activity confirmed the phosphorylation studies. JNK and p38 MAPK were activated only significantly by sorbitol. The MAPKs are phosphorylated by dual-specificity kinases (mitogen-activated ERK-activating kinase [MEK] or MAPK kinase [MKK]). As expected, sorbitol and insulin both stimulated MEK phosphorylation. MKK4 was phosphorylated only in response to sorbitol, and neither of the stimuli caused phosphorylation of MKK3 or 6. To determine the functional significance of the observed activation of p38 MAPK in response to insulin and osmotic shock, we used three pyridinyl imidazole p38 MAPK inhibitors, SB203580, SB202190, and PD169316. Insulin and osmotic shock-stimulated glucose transport was not inhibited by any inhibitor at concentrations that were shown to block p38 MAPK activity. Furthermore, activation of the p38 MAPK pathway by treatment of cells with anisomycin did not stimulate glucose transport. These results suggest that activation of the p38 MAPK pathway is not involved in the stimulation of glucose transport.

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