Quantifying the contribution of the liver to glucose homeostasis: a detailed kinetic model of human hepatic glucose metabolism

PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(6):e1002577. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002577. Epub 2012 Jun 21.


Despite the crucial role of the liver in glucose homeostasis, a detailed mathematical model of human hepatic glucose metabolism is lacking so far. Here we present a detailed kinetic model of glycolysis, gluconeogenesis and glycogen metabolism in human hepatocytes integrated with the hormonal control of these pathways by insulin, glucagon and epinephrine. Model simulations are in good agreement with experimental data on (i) the quantitative contributions of glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, and glycogen metabolism to hepatic glucose production and hepatic glucose utilization under varying physiological states. (ii) the time courses of postprandial glycogen storage as well as glycogen depletion in overnight fasting and short term fasting (iii) the switch from net hepatic glucose production under hypoglycemia to net hepatic glucose utilization under hyperglycemia essential for glucose homeostasis (iv) hormone perturbations of hepatic glucose metabolism. Response analysis reveals an extra high capacity of the liver to counteract changes of plasma glucose level below 5 mM (hypoglycemia) and above 7.5 mM (hyperglycemia). Our model may serve as an important module of a whole-body model of human glucose metabolism and as a valuable tool for understanding the role of the liver in glucose homeostasis under normal conditions and in diseases like diabetes or glycogen storage diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Fasting / metabolism
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycogenolysis
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / metabolism
  • Hypoglycemia / metabolism
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver Glycogen / metabolism
  • Models, Biological*
  • Postprandial Period / physiology


  • Insulin
  • Liver Glycogen
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose