Glucose transport is a highly regulated process and is dependent on a variety of signaling events. Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) has been implicated in various aspects of the regulation of glucose transport, but the mechanisms by which GSK-3 activity affects glucose uptake have not been well defined. We report that basal glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) activity regulates glucose transport in several cell types. Chronic inhibition of basal GSK-3 activity (8–24 h) in several cell types, including vascular smooth muscle cells, resulted in an approximately twofold increase in glucose uptake due to a similar increase in protein expression of the facilitative glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1). Conversely, expression of a constitutively active form of GSK-3β resulted in at least a twofold decrease in GLUT1 expression and glucose uptake. Since GSK-3 can inhibit mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling via phosphorylation of the tuberous sclerosis complex subunit 2 (TSC2) tumor suppressor, we investigated whether chronic GSK-3 effects on glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression depended on TSC2 phosphorylation and TSC inhibition of mTOR. We found that absence of functional TSC2 resulted in a 1.5-to 3-fold increase in glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression in multiple cell types. These increases in glucose uptake and GLUT1 levels were prevented by inhibition of mTOR with rapamycin. GSK-3 inhibition had no effect on glucose uptake or GLUT1 expression in TSC2 mutant cells, indicating that GSK-3 effects on GLUT1 and glucose uptake were mediated by a TSC2/mTOR-dependent pathway. The effect of GSK-3 inhibition on GLUT1 expression and glucose uptake was restored in TSC2 mutant cells by transfection of a wild-type TSC2 vector, but not by a TSC2 construct with mutated GSK-3 phosphorylation sites. Thus, TSC2 and rapamycin-sensitive mTOR function downstream of GSK-3 to modulate effects of GSK-3 on glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression. GSK-3 therefore suppresses glucose uptake via TSC2 and mTOR and may serve to match energy substrate utilization to cellular growth.

  • metabolism
  • cell signaling
  • S6 kinase
  • mammalian target of rapamycin
  • glycogen synthetase kinase
  • tuberous sclerosis complex
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