Immunoelectron microscopic evidence that GLUT4 translocation explains the stimulation of glucose transport in isolated rat white adipose cells

D. Malide, G. Ramm, S. W. Cushman, J. W. Slot

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We used an improved cryosectioning technique in combination with quantitative immunoelectron microscopy to study GLUT4 compartments in isolated rat white adipose cells. We provide clear evidence that in unstimulated cells most of the GLUT4 localizes intracellularly to tubulovesicular structures clustered near small stacks of Golgi and endosomes, or scattered throughout the cytoplasm. This localization is entirely consistent with that originally described in brown adipose tissue, strongly suggesting that the GLUT4 compartments in white and brown adipose cells are morphologically similar. Furthermore, insulin induces parallel increases (with similar magnitudes) in glucose transport activity, approximately 16-fold, and cell-surface GLUT4, approximately 12-fold. Concomitantly, insulin decreases GLUT4 equally from all intracellular locations, in agreement with the concept that the entire cellular GLUT4 pool contributes to insulin-stimulated exocytosis. In the insulin-stimulated state, GLUT4 molecules are not randomly distributed on the plasma membrane, but neither are they enriched in caveolae. Importantly, the total number of GLUT4 C-terminal epitopes detected by the immuno-gold method is not significantly different between basal and insulin-stimulated cells, thus arguing directly against a reported insulin-induced unmasking effect. These results provide strong morphological evidence (1) that GLUT4 compartments are similar in all insulin-sensitive cells and (2) for the concept that GLUT4 translocation almost fully accounts for the increase in glucose transport in response to insulin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4203-4210
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipose cell
  • GLUT4
  • Insulin action
  • Protein A-gold (immunogold)

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