Original Article

Long-term ethanol exposure inhibits glucose transporter 4 expression via an AMPK-dependent pathway in adipocytes

Authors: Li Feng, Yong-feng Song, Qing-bo Guan, Hong-jun Liu, Bo Ban, Hai-xin Dong, Xiao-lei Hou, Kok-onn Lee, Ling Gao, Jia-jun Zhao
DOI: 10.1038/aps.2010.11


Aim: The roles of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and myocyte enhancer factor 2 isoforms (MEF2A, D) as mediators of the effects of ethanol on glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) expression are unclear. We studied the effects of ethanol in adipocytes in vivo and in vitro.
Methods: Thirty-six male Wistar rats were divided into three groups and given ethanol in a single daily dose of 0, 0.5, or 5 g/kg for 22 weeks. The expression of AMPK, MEF2 isoforms A and D, and GLUT4 was measured and compared in the three groups. The existence of the AMPK/MEF2/GLUT4 pathway in adipocytes and the effects of ethanol on this pathway were studied in (a) epididymal adipose tissue from six male Wistar rats subcutaneously injected with 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleoside (AICAR, an AMPK activator) or with 0.9% NaCl (control); and (b) isolated rat and human adipocytes treated with or without ethanol, AICAR, and compound C (a selective AMPK inhibitor). Expression of AMPK, MEF2, and GLUT4 was measured by RT-PCR and Western blotting.
Results: (1) Long-term ethanol exposure decreased activated AMPK, MEF2A, MEF2D, and GLUT4 expression in rat adipose tissue. (2) In rat and human adipocytes, AICAR-induced AMPK activation, with subsequent elevation of MEF2 and GLUT4 expression, was inhibited by compound C. (3) In vitro ethanol-treatment suppressed the AMPK/MEF2/GLUT4 pathway.
Conclusion: The AMPK/MEF2/GLUT4 pathway exists in both rat and human adipocytes, and activated AMPK may positively regulate MEF2 and GLUT4 expression. Ethanol inhibition of this pathway leads to decreased GLUT4 expression, thus reducing insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

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