Chronic exposure (48 h) to glucosamine resulted in a dose-dependent reduction of basal and insulin-stimulated glucose uptake activities in human skeletal muscle cell cultures from nondiabetic and type 2 diabetic subjects. Insulin responsiveness of uptake was also reduced. There was no change in total membrane expression of either GLUT1, GLUT3, or GLUT4 proteins. While glucosamine treatment had no significant effects on hexokinase activity measured in cell extracts, glucose phosphorylation in intact cells was impaired after treatment. Under conditions where glucose transport and phosphorylation were down regulated, the fractional velocity (FV) of glycogen synthase was increased by glucosamine treatment. Neither the total activity nor protein expression of glycogen synthase were influenced by glucosamine treatment. The stimulation of glycogen synthase by glucosamine was not due totally to soluble mediators. Reflective of the effects on transport/phosphorylation, total glycogen content and net glycogen synthesis were reduced after glucosamine treatment. These effects were similar in nondiabetic and type 2 cells. In summary: 1) Chronic treatment with glucosamine reduces glucose transport/phosphorylation and storage into glycogen in skeletal muscle cells in culture and impairs insulin responsiveness as well. 2) Down-regulation of glucose transport/phosphorylation occurs at a posttranslational level of GLUTs. 3) Glycogen synthase activity increases with glucosamine treatment. 4) Nondiabetic and type 2 muscle cells display equal sensitivity and responsiveness to glucosamine. Increased exposure of skeletal muscle to glucosamine, a substrate/precursor of the hexosamine pathway, alters intracellular glucose metabolism at multiple sites and can contribute to insulin resistance in this tissue.