Role of O-GlcNAcylation in nutritional sensing, insulin resistance and in mediating the benefits of exercise

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Nov;39(11):1205-13. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2014-0122. Epub 2014 Jul 28.


The purpose of this review is to highlight the role of O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) protein modification in metabolic disease states and to summarize current knowledge of how exercise affects this important post-translational signalling pathway. O-GlcNAc modification is an intracellular tool capable of integrating energy supply with demand. The accumulation of excess energy associated with obesity and insulin resistance is mediated, in part, by the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway (HBP), which results in the O-GlcNAcylation of a myriad of proteins, thereby affecting their respective function, stability, and localization. Insulin resistance is related to the excessive O-GlcNAcylation of key metabolic proteins causing a chronic blunting of insulin signalling pathways and precipitating the accompanying pathologies, such as heart and kidney disease. Lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise also modify the pathway. Exercise is a front-line and cost-effective therapeutic approach for insulin resistance, and recent work shows that the intervention can alter O-GlcNAc gene expression, signalling, and protein modification. However, there is currently no consensus on the effect of frequency, intensity, type, and duration of exercise on O-GlcNAc modification, the HBP, and its related enzymes. On one end of the spectrum, mild, prolonged swim training reduces O-GlcNAcylation, while on the other end, higher intensity treadmill running increases cardiac protein O-GlcNAc modification. Clearly, a balance between acute and chronic stress of exercise is needed to reap the benefits of the intervention on O-GlcNAc signalling.

Keywords: entraînement physique; exercise training; insulin resistance; insulinorésistance; modification post-traductionnelle; post-translational modification; signalisation; signalling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / chemistry
  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / physiology*
  • Rest / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Glucose
  • Acetylglucosamine