Exercise Increases Glucose Transporter-4 Levels on Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells

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Glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) plays a key role in the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes. Glucose transporter 4 is upregulated in response to exercise, enhancing cellular glucose transport in skeletal muscle tissue. This mechanism appears to remain intact in individuals with insulin resistance. Details of the mechanism are poorly understood and are challenging to study due to the invasive nature of muscle biopsy. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) have documented insulin-sensitive GLUT4 activity and may serve as a proxy tissue for studying skeletal muscle GLUT4. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether GLUT4 in PBMC is affected by conditioning.


We recruited 16 student athletes from the cross-country running and skiing teams and fifteen sedentary students matched for age and sex from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were collected with mononuclear cell separation tubes. The GLUT4 concentrations were measured using a commercially available enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. Additionally, correlations between PBMC GLUT4 and common indicators of insulin resistance were examined.


Results indicate significantly higher PBMC GLUT4 levels in conditioned athletes than in their sedentary counterparts, similar to what has been documented in myocytes. Females were observed to have higher PBMC GLUT4 levels than males. Correlations were not detected between PBMC GLUT4 and hemoglobin A1c, glucose, insulin, homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance, body mass index, or body fat.


This study provides evidence to support exploration of PBMC as a proxy tissue for studying GLUT4 response to exercise or other noninsulin factors.

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