Muscle glucose uptake, glycogen synthase activity, and insulin signaling were investigated in response to a physiological hyperinsulinemic (600 pmol/l)-euglycemic clamp in young healthy subjects. Four hours before the clamp, the subjects performed one-legged exercise for 1 h. In the exercised leg, insulin more rapidly activated glucose uptake (half activation time [t1/2] = 11 vs. 34 min) and glycogen synthase activity (t1/2 = 8 vs. 17 min), and the magnitude of increase was two- to fourfold higher compared with the rested leg. However, prior exercise did not result in a greater or more rapid increase in insulin-induced receptor tyrosine kinase (IRTK) activity (t1/2 = 50 min), serine phosphorylation of Akt (t1/2 = 1-2 min), or serine phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) (t1/2 = 1-2 min) or in a larger or more rapid decrease in GSK-3 activity (t1/2 = 3-8 min). Thirty minutes after cessation of insulin infusion, glucose uptake, glycogen synthase activity, and signaling events were partially reversed in both the rested and the exercised leg. We conclude the following: 1) physiological hyperinsulinemia induces sustained activation of insulin-signaling molecules in human skeletal muscle; 2) the more distal insulin-signaling components (Akt, GSK-3) are activated much more rapidly than the proximal signaling molecules (IRTK as well as insulin receptor substrate 1 and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase [Wojtaszewski et al., Diabetes 46:1775-1781, 1997]); and 3) prior exercise increases insulin stimulation of both glucose uptake and glycogen synthase activity in the absence of an upregulation of signaling events in human skeletal muscle.

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