Rabbit lens and retina phosphorylate glucose through a glucokinase-like enzyme: study in normal and spontaneously hyperglycemic animals

J Diabetes Complications. Mar-Apr 1996;10(2):68-77. doi: 10.1016/1056-8727(94)00080-8.


After having previously shown that some noninsulin-sensitive tissues (capillaries and optic nerve) phosphorylate glucose in a concentration-dependent manner through a glucokinase-like enzyme, here, we report data on glucose phosphorylation in rabbit lens and retina at various glucose concentrations (1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 mmol/L). In the 3000 g supernatant of lens and retina homogenates from two separate groups of female albino rabbits ten animals in each group; 1.8-2.0 kg body weight; mean +/- SEM morning glycemia: 8.19 +/- 0.28 and 8.12 +/- 0.24 mmol/L, respectively) was assayed glucose phosphorylating activity (NADP reduction measured as change in optical density at 366 nm at pH 7.5). The enzyme activity did not reach the maximum at low glucose concentration (1 mmol/L), as it occurs in several tissues, but increased progressively in both tissues with the increase in glucose concentration. Values (mean +/- SEM) for lens were 0.197 +/- 0.031 nmol/min/mg protein at 1 mmol/L and 0.327 +/- 0.051 (the highest value) at 50 mmol/L glucose (+65.99%, p < 0.01; r = 0.31, p < 0.05). Values for retina were 36.02 +/- 2.12 at 1 mmol/L glucose and 42.48 +/- 2.79 (the highest value) at 25 mmol/L glucose (+17.93%, p < 0.001; r = 0.32, p < 0.05). These kinetic characteristics, somewhat reminiscent of those shown by hepatic glucokinase, are still more pronounced when we calculated the "glucokinase component," obtained by subtracting the activity at 1 mmol/L glucose (hexokinase component) from that at the highest glucose concentration (total glucose phosphorylating activity). In five rabbits of similar age and weight, with spontaneous hyperglycemia (mean +/- SEM morning glycemia: 11.71 +/- 0.60) glucose phosphorylation in the retina was lower than normal, value at pH 7.5 and 1 mmol/L glucose being 24.52 +/- 2.20 versus 36.02 +/- 2.12 of normal animals (-31.93%, p < 0.01). This, if occurs also in other tissues, could contribute to the hyperglycemia by reducing glucose utilization. In these animals, however, the glucose phosphorylating activity retained the responsivity to increasing glucose concentrations, with value at 100 mmol/L of 28.65 +/- 2.10, corresponding to + 16.84% over the value at 1 mmol/L (p < 0.01). Therefore, the actual glucose phosphorylation in the retina of these animals would depend both upon the enzyme level (which is reduced) and glucose concentration (which is increased). Due to the in vivo inhibition of the hexokinase component by glucose 6-phosphate, the glucokinase component in retina and lens may be predominant in vivo, making the stimulating effect of hyperglycemia much more important than it would appear from our in vitro data. This might play a role in the chronic diabetic complications.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Glucokinase / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Hyperglycemia / metabolism*
  • Lens, Crystalline / enzymology
  • Lens, Crystalline / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rabbits
  • Reference Values
  • Retina / enzymology
  • Retina / metabolism*


  • Glucokinase
  • Glucose