Adrenoceptors promote glucose uptake into adipocytes and muscle by an insulin-independent signaling pathway involving mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 2

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Abstract

Uptake of glucose into skeletal muscle and adipose tissue plays a vital role in metabolism and energy balance. Insulin released from β-islet cells of the pancreas promotes glucose uptake in these target tissues by stimulating translocation of GLUT4 transporters to the cell surface. This process is complex, involving signaling proteins including the mechanistic (or mammalian) target of rapamycin (mTOR) and Akt that intersect with multiple pathways controlling cell survival, growth and proliferation. mTOR exists in two forms, mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1), and mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2). mTORC1 has been intensively studied, acting as a key regulator of protein and lipid synthesis that integrates cellular nutrient availability and energy balance. Studies on mTORC2 have focused largely on its capacity to activate Akt by phosphorylation at Ser473, however recent findings demonstrate a novel role for mTORC2 in cellular glucose uptake. For example, agonists acting at β2-adrenoceptors (ARs) in skeletal muscle or β3-ARs in brown adipose tissue increase glucose uptake in vitro and in vivo via mechanisms dependent on mTORC2 but not Akt. In this review, we will focus on the signaling pathways downstream of β-ARs that promote glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and brown adipocytes, and will highlight how the insulin and adrenergic pathways converge and interact in these cells. The identification of insulin-independent mechanisms that promote glucose uptake should facilitate novel treatment strategies for metabolic disease.

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