Regulation of glucose transport by hypoxia

Am J Kidney Dis. 1999 Jul;34(1):189-202. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(99)70131-9.


Transport of glucose into most mammalian cells and tissues is rate-controlling for its metabolism. Glucose transport is acutely stimulated by hypoxic conditions, and the response is mediated by enhanced function of the facilitative glucose transporters (Glut), Glut1, Glut3, and Glut4. The expression and activity of the Glut-mediated transport is coupled to the energetic status of the cell, such that the inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation resulting from exposure to hypoxia leads to a stimulation of glucose transport. The premise that the glucose transport response to hypoxia is secondary to inhibition of mitochondrial function is supported by the finding that exposure of a variety of cells and tissues to agents such as azide or cyanide, in the presence of oxygen, also leads to stimulation of glucose transport. The mechanisms underlying the acute stimulation of transport include translocation of Gluts to the plasma membrane (Glut1 and Glut4) and activation of transporters pre-exiting in the plasma membrane (Glut1). A more prolonged exposure to hypoxia results in enhanced transcription of the Glut1 glucose transporter gene, with little or no effect on transcription of other Glut genes. The transcriptional effect of hypoxia is mediated by dual mechanisms operating in parallel, namely, (1) enhancement of Glut1 gene transcription in response to a reduction in oxygen concentration per se, acting through the hypoxia-signaling pathway, and (2) stimulation of Glut1 transcription secondary to the associated inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation during hypoxia. Among the various hypoxia-responsive genes, Glut1 is the first gene whose rate of transcription has been shown to be dually regulated by hypoxia. In addition, inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation per se, and not the reduction in oxygen tension itself, results in a stabilization of Glut1 mRNA. The increase in cell Glut1 mRNA content, resulting from its enhanced transcription and decreased degradation, leads to increased cell and plasma membrane Glut1 content, which is manifested by a further stimulation of glucose transport during the adaptive response to prolonged exposure to hypoxia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Glucose Transporter Type 3
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Humans
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / physiology
  • Muscle Proteins*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Glucose Transporter Type 3
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • SLC2A1 protein, human
  • SLC2A3 protein, human
  • SLC2A4 protein, human
  • Glucose