Glucosamine (Glmn), a product of glucose metabolism via the hexosamine pathway, causes insulin resistance in isolated adipocytes by impairing insulin-induced GLUT 4 glucose transporter translocation to the plasma membrane. We hypothesized that Glmn causes insulin resistance in vivo by a similar mechanism in skeletal muscle. We performed euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamps (12 mU/kg/min + 3H-3-glucose) in awake male Sprague-Dawley rats with and without Glmn infusion at rates ranging from 0.1 to 6.5 mg/kg/min. After 4h of euglycemic clamping, hindquarter muscles were quick-frozen and homogenized, and membranes were subfractionated by differential centrifugation and separated on a discontinuous sucrose gradient (25, 30, and 35% sucrose). Membrane proteins were solubilized and immunoblotted for GLUT 4. With Glmn, glucose uptake (GU) was maximally reduced by 33 +/- 1%, P < 0.001. The apparent Glmn dose to reduce maximal GU by 50% was 0.1 mg/kg/min or 1/70th the rate of GU on a molar basis. Control galactosamine and mannosamine infusions had no effect on GU. Relative to baseline, insulin caused a 2.6-fold increase in GLUT 4 in the 25% membrane fraction (f), P < 0.01, and a 40% reduction in the 35%f, P < 0.05, but had no effect on GLUT 4 in the 30% f, P= NS. Addition of Glmn to insulin caused a 41% reduction of GLUT 4 in the 25%f, P < 0.05, a 29% fall in the 30%f, and prevented the reduction of GLUT 4 in the 35% f. The 30%f membranes were subjected to a second separation with a 27 and 30% sucrose gradient. Insulin mobilized GLUT 4 away from the 30%f, P < 0.05, but not the 27% f. In contrast, Glmn reduced GLUT 4 in the 27%f, P < 0.05, but not the 30%f. Thus Glmn appears to alter translocation of an insulin-insensitive GLUT 4 pool. Coinfusion of Glmn did not alter enrichment of the sarcolemmal markers 5'-nucleotidase, Na+/K+ATPase, and phospholemman in either 25, 30, or 35% f. Thus Glmn completely blocked movement of Glut 4 induced by insulin. Glmn is a potent inducer of insulin resistance in vivo by causing (at least in part) a defect intrinsic to GLUT 4 translocation and/or trafficking. These data support a potential role for Glmn to cause glucose-induced insulin resistance (glucose toxicity).