Glucose homeostasis across human airway epithelial cell monolayers: role of diffusion, transport and metabolism

Pflugers Arch. 2009 Mar;457(5):1061-70. doi: 10.1007/s00424-008-0576-4. Epub 2008 Sep 10.


Glucose in airway surface liquid (ASL) is maintained at low concentrations compared to blood glucose. Using radiolabelled [(3)H]-D: -glucose and [(14)C]-L: -glucose, detection of D: - and L: -glucose by high-performance liquid chromatography and metabolites by nuclear magnetic resonance, we found that glucose applied to the basolateral side of H441 human airway epithelial cell monolayers at a physiological concentration (5 mM) crossed to the apical side by paracellular diffusion. Transepithelial resistance of the monolayer was inversely correlated with paracellular diffusion. Appearance of glucose in the apical compartment was reduced by uptake of glucose into the cell by basolateral and apical phloretin-sensitive GLUT transporters. Glucose taken up into the cell was metabolised to lactate which was then released, at least in part, across the apical membrane. We suggest that glucose transport through GLUT transporters and its subsequent metabolism in lung epithelial cells help to maintain low glucose concentrations in human ASL which is important for protecting the lung against infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Diffusion
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Lung / cytology
  • Phloretin / pharmacology
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Acetates
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative
  • Lactic Acid
  • Glucose
  • Phloretin