Although leucine has many positive effects on metabolism in multiple tissues, elevated levels of this amino acid and the other branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and their metabolites are implicated in obesity and insulin resistance. While some controversies exist about the direct effect of leucine on insulin action in skeletal muscle, little is known about the direct effect of BCAA metabolites. Here, we first showed that the inhibitory effect of leucine on insulin-stimulated glucose transport in L6 myotubes was dampened when other amino acids were present, due in part to a 140% stimulation of basal glucose transport (P < 0.05). Importantly, we also showed that α-ketoisocaproic acid (KIC), an obligatory metabolite of leucine, stimulated mTORC1 signaling but suppressed insulin-stimulated glucose transport (−34%, P < 0.05) in an mTORC1-dependent manner. The effect of KIC on insulin-stimulated glucose transport was abrogated in cells depleted of branched-chain aminotransferase 2 (BCAT2), the enzyme that catalyzes the reversible transamination of KIC to leucine. We conclude that although KIC can modulate muscle glucose metabolism, this effect is likely a result of its transamination back to leucine. Therefore, limiting the availability of leucine, rather than those of its metabolites, to skeletal muscle may be more critical in the management of insulin resistance and its sequelae.
- insulin resistance
- α-ketoisocaproic acid
- glucose transport
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