The role of cyclic AMP in rapid and long-term regulation of gluconeogenesis and glycolysis

Adv Second Messenger Phosphoprotein Res. 1988;22:175-91.


Cyclic AMP plays a major, if not primary, role in the regulation of hepatic gluconeogenesis. The cyclic nucleotide acts on two levels. First, cAMP levels determine the phosphorylation state of key regulatory enzymes including pyruvate kinase and 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-bisphosphatase. Regulation of cAMP levels by glucagon, insulin, and catecholamines accounts in large part for minute-to-minute hormonal control of pathway flux in fed animals and during the transition from fed to starved; second, cAMP plays a key role in regulation of gene transcription of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase, pyruvate kinase, glucokinase, and probably 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-bisphosphatase. Cyclic AMP acts to induce synthesis of mRNA for phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase and probably fructose 1, 6-bisphosphatase while it suppresses transcription of the genes for pyruvate kinase and glucokinase. Its role in the regulation of gene transcription of the bifunctional enzyme and 6-phosphofructo 1-kinase remains to be defined. Insulin is the most important hormone for restraining the level of cAMP. Insulin acts to oppose the acute actions of cAMP on enzyme phosphorylation, presumably by activating a phosphodiesterase and thereby lowering cAMP levels. Insulin also opposes the action of hormones (alpha-adrenergic agonists, angiotensin, vasopressin) that act in liver via cAMP-independent phosphorylation. However, in the systems in which this has been studied, the cAMP-independent effects on gluconeogenic/glycolytic pathway flux are small in comparison to cAMP-dependent regulation. Insulin also opposes the action of cAMP on gene transcription by an as yet unknown mechanism. This effect does not appear to involve changes in the level of cAMP because the hormone also acts in cultured cells when added alone or in the presence of dexamethasone. The ability of insulin to lower hepatic cAMP levels and to modulate gene expression are important because restoration of acute regulatory hormone responsiveness to starved or diabetic animals could not occur if insulin were unable to lower cAMP levels and be the dominant factor in modulating the gene expression of these key regulatory enzymes. Clearly, the hepatic gluconeogenic/glycolytic pathway undergoes a complex but extremely well-integrated regulation by hormones that accounts in large part for the major role the organ plays in the control of glucose homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclic AMP / physiology*
  • Gluconeogenesis*
  • Glycolysis*
  • Homeostasis
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Second Messenger Systems*


  • Insulin
  • Cyclic AMP