Glucose is an important fuel for contracting muscle, and normal glucose metabolism is vital for health. Glucose enters the muscle cell via facilitated diffusion through the GLUT4 glucose transporter which translocates from intracellular storage depots to the plasma membrane and T-tubules upon muscle contraction. Here we discuss the current understanding of how exercise-induced muscle glucose uptake is regulated. We briefly discuss the role of glucose supply and metabolism and concentrate on GLUT4 translocation and the molecular signaling that sets this in motion during muscle contractions. Contraction-induced molecular signaling is complex and involves a variety of signaling molecules including AMPK, Ca(2+), and NOS in the proximal part of the signaling cascade as well as GTPases, Rab, and SNARE proteins and cytoskeletal components in the distal part. While acute regulation of muscle glucose uptake relies on GLUT4 translocation, glucose uptake also depends on muscle GLUT4 expression which is increased following exercise. AMPK and CaMKII are key signaling kinases that appear to regulate GLUT4 expression via the HDAC4/5-MEF2 axis and MEF2-GEF interactions resulting in nuclear export of HDAC4/5 in turn leading to histone hyperacetylation on the GLUT4 promoter and increased GLUT4 transcription. Exercise training is the most potent stimulus to increase skeletal muscle GLUT4 expression, an effect that may partly contribute to improved insulin action and glucose disposal and enhanced muscle glycogen storage following exercise training in health and disease.
Journal review article
Physiological Reviews, 2013, Vol 93, Issue 3, p. 993-1017