Super-resolution microscopy reveals the insulin-resistance-regulated reorganization of GLUT4 on plasma membranes

J Cell Sci. 2017 Jan 15;130(2):396-405. doi: 10.1242/jcs.192450. Epub 2016 Nov 25.


GLUT4 (also known as SLC2A4) is essential for glucose uptake in skeletal muscles and adipocytes, which play central roles in whole-body glucose metabolism. Here, using direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM) to investigate the characteristics of plasma-membrane-fused GLUT4 at the single-molecule level, we have demonstrated that insulin and insulin resistance regulate the spatial organization of GLUT4 in adipocytes. Stimulation with insulin shifted the balance of GLUT4 on the plasma membrane toward a more dispersed configuration. In contrast, insulin resistance induced a more clustered distribution of GLUT4 and increased the mean number of molecules per cluster. Furthermore, our data demonstrate that the F5QQI motif and lipid rafts mediate the maintenance of GLUT4 clusters on the plasma membrane. Mutation of F5QQI (F5QQA-GLUT4) induced a more clustered distribution of GLUT4; moreover, destruction of lipid rafts in adipocytes expressing F5QQA-GLUT4 dramatically decreased the percentage of large clusters and the mean number of molecules per cluster. In conclusion, our data clarify the effects of insulin stimulation or insulin resistance on GLUT4 reorganization on the plasma membrane and reveal new pathogenic mechanisms of insulin resistance.

Keywords: Direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy; GLUT4; Insulin resistance; Membrane protein; dSTORM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / chemistry
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / genetics
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / metabolism*
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Stochastic Processes


  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Insulin