Insulin stimulation of adipose and muscle cells results in the translocation of GLUT4 from an intracellular location to the plasma membrane; this translocation is defective in insulin resistance. Studies have suggested an important role for synaptobrevin and syntaxin homologues in this event, particularly the v-soluble N-ethylmaleimide attachment protein receptors (SNAREs) cellubrevin and vesicle-associated membrane protein-2 (VAMP-2) and the t-SNARE syntaxin 4, but the expression of these proteins has not been studied in insulin-resistant tissues. Therefore, we examined SNARE protein content in skeletal muscle from Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats compared with lean controls and determined the effect of the thiazolidinedione insulin sensitizer rosiglitazone on these proteins. GLUT4 levels in skeletal muscle from ZDF rats were similar to those in lean control animals. In contrast, cellubrevin, VAMP-2, and syntaxin 4 protein levels were elevated (2.8-fold, P = 0.02; 3.7-fold, P = 0.01; and 2.2-fold, P < 0.05, respectively) in skeletal muscle from ZDF rats compared with lean controls. Restoration of normoglycemia and normoinsulinemia in ZDF rats with rosiglitazone (30 micromol/kg) normalized cellubrevin, VAMP-2, and syntaxin 4 protein to levels approaching those observed in lean control animals. These data show that elevated v- and t-SNARE protein levels are associated with insulin resistance in skeletal muscle and that these increases may be reversed by rosiglitazone treatment concomitant with a restoration of glycemic control. Such increases in SNARE protein levels were not observed in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats, which suggests that hyperinsulinemia rather than hyperglycemia may be more important in modulating SNARE protein expression in rodent models of insulin resistance. Consistent with this hypothesis, elevated levels of SNARE proteins were also observed in 3T3-L1 adipocytes chronically treated with insulin (500 nmol/l for 24 h). These data argue that SNARE protein levels may be altered in insulin-resistant states and that the levels of these proteins are modulated by agents that increase insulin sensitivity. Moreover, these data demonstrate for the first time altered expression of proteins known to regulate GLUT4 translocation in a model of diabetes.

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