Regulation of GLUT4 gene expression during exercise

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Jul;36(7):1202-6. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000132385.34889.fe.


Glucose transport into muscle is important for the maintenance of normoglycemia. Thus, understanding mechanisms that regulate expression of GLUT4, the main glucose transporter in skeletal muscle, is important to identify targets for the treatment of diabetes. Exercise increases the expression of GLUT4 mRNA and protein, and we have been investigating the mechanisms involved. Transcription of the GLUT4 gene is transiently activated after an acute bout of exercise and GLUT4 protein can be increased as much as two- to threefold after a few days of repeated exercise bouts. Studies of the GLUT4 promoter have identified two sets of DNA sequences that are important for metabolic regulation and also for increased transcription of the gene in response to exercise. These DNA elements have been shown to bind the transcription factors myocyte enhancer factor 2 (MEF2) and GLUT4 enhancer factor (GEF). The mechanisms that activate these proteins remain one of the important areas of research in this field. Signals that link muscle contraction to the activation of transcription factors (MEF2, GEF) involved in increased expression of GLUT4 during exercise is another area needing further research. Two signals that show promise are changes in the energy charge (acting through AMP activated kinase [AMPK]) and changes in intracellular calcium (acting through calcineurin [a calcium-calmodulin activated phosphatase] and calcium-calmodulin activated kinase [CAMK]). There is good evidence that both increased AMPK activity and increased CAMK activity cause increased transcription of the GLUT4 gene. It remains to be demonstrated that exercise is acting through one or both of these mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Muscle Proteins*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Signal Transduction
  • United States


  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SLC2A4 protein, human
  • Slc2a4 protein, mouse