Phosphorylation of the glucose transporter in vitro and in vivo by protein kinase C


The Ca2+- and phospholipid-dependent protein kinase (protein kinase C) is present in many mammalian tissues1, and its important physiological protein substrates are only now beginning to be identified. A useful advance in identifying these i ntracellular substrates has been the recognition that the kinase is the receptor for phorbol esters, which stimulate phosphotransferase activity2–4. Phorbol ester-induced changes in protein phosphorylation in intact cells may thus be taken, in part, as a probable indication of protein kinase C activation. The many cellular effects of phorbol esters include the stimulation of glucose uptake5–8, although the response of glucose uptake to phorbol esters appears to be complex, apparently varying in response time and requirement for protein synthesis6,7. Such observations prompted us to explore one possible explanation for the alteration of glucose uptake, namely, phosphorylation of the glucose transporter by protein kinase C. We report here that incubation of purified human erythrocyte glucose transporter with rat brain protein kinase C results in the phosphorylation of a protein of relative molecular mass (Mr) 50,000–60,000 which has subsequently been identified as the glucose transporter by specific immunoprecipitation with a monoclonal antibody. Immunoprecipitation of membrane proteins from 32P-labelled human erythrocytes revealed a phorbol ester-stimulated phosphorylation of the transporter. This covalent modification of the glucose transporter may thus, in part, underlie the ability of phorbol esters and certain hormones to stimulate glucose uptake.

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Witters, L., Vater, C. & Lienhard, G. Phosphorylation of the glucose transporter in vitro and in vivo by protein kinase C. Nature 315, 777–778 (1985).

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