In adipose and muscle cells, insulin stimulates a rapid and dramatic increase in glucose uptake, primarily by promoting the redistribution of the GLUT4 glucose transporter from its intracellular storage site to the plasma membrane. In contrast, the more ubiquitously expressed isoform GLUT1 is localized at the cell surface in the basal state, and shows a less dramatic translocation in response to insulin. To identify sequences involved in the differential subcellular localization and hormone-responsiveness of these isoforms, chimeric GLUT1/GLUT4 transporters were stably expressed in mouse 3T3-L1 adipocytes. The NH2 terminus of GLUT4 contains sequences capable of sequestering the transporter inside the cell, although not in an insulin-sensitive pool. In contrast, the COOH-terminal 30 amino acids of GLUT4 are sufficient for its correct localization to an intracellular storage pool which translocates to the cell surface in response to insulin. The dileucine motif within this domain, which is required for intracellular sequestration of chimeric transporters in fibroblasts, is not critical for targeting to the hormone-responsive compartment in adipocytes. Analysis of rates of internalization of chimeric transporter after the removal of insulin from cells, as well as the subcellular distribution of transporters in cells unexposed to or treated with insulin, leads to a three-pool model which can account for the data.

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