5'AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) has been suggested to be a key regulatory protein in exercise signaling of muscle glucose transport. To test this hypothesis, we investigated whether muscle glycogen levels affect AMPK activation and glucose transport stimulation similarly during contractions. Rats were preconditioned by a combination of swimming exercise and diet to obtain a glycogen-supercompensated group (high muscle glycogen content [HG]) with approximately 3-fold higher muscle glycogen levels than a glycogen-depleted group (low muscle glycogen content [LG]). In perfused fast-twitch muscles, contractions induced significant increases in AMPK activity and glucose transport and decreases in acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) activity in both HG and LG groups. Contraction-induced glucose transport was nearly 2-fold (P < 0.05) and AMPK activation was 3-fold (P < 0.05) higher in the LG group compared with the HG group, whereas ACC deactivation was not different between groups. Thus, there was a significant positive correlation between AMPK activity and glucose transport in contracting fast-twitch muscles (r = 0.80, P < 0.01). However, in slow-twitch muscles with HG, glucose transport was increased 6-fold (P < 0.05) during contractions, whereas AMPK activity did not increase. In contracting slow-twitch muscles with LG, the increase in AMPK activity (315%) and the decrease in ACC activity (54 vs. 34% at 0.2 mmol/l citrate, LG vs. HG) was higher (P < 0.05) compared with HG muscles, whereas the increase in glucose transport was identical in HG and LG. In conclusion, in slow-twitch muscles, high glycogen levels inhibit contraction-induced AMPK activation without affecting glucose transport. This observation suggests that AMPK activation is not an essential signaling step in glucose transport stimulation in skeletal muscle.

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