Objective: In differentiating human preadipocytes glucose uptake in the presence of insulin is a prerequisite for lipid accumulation. The aim of this study was to characterize the insulin-regulated glucose transport system during and after differentiation.
Design and methods: Human adipocyte precursor cells kept in primary culture were allowed to differentiate into fat cells under serum-free hormone-supplemented conditions. 2-Deoxy-glucose uptake was measured as a functional parameter of the glucose transport system, the amount of GLUT1 and GLUT4 protein was determined by Western blotting.
Results: In the undifferentiated state, cells did not increase 2-deoxy-glucose uptake in response to insulin. On day 16, when cells have acquired the adipocyte phenotype, there was a 3-4-fold stimulation of glucose transport by insulin compared to basal rates, whereas basal glucose uptake was dramatically diminished. Measurement of GLUT4 protein in cell extracts, showed a marked increase in the amount of this insulin-regulated transporter isoform during the differentiation period. On average, the amount of GLUT4 was 16.7-fold greater after than before differentiation. In contrast, the amount of GLUT1 protein decreased during differentiation to almost undetectable levels on day 16. When newly developed adipocytes were maintained in culture for another 14d, the stimulation of glucose uptake and the amount of GLUT4 remained stable.
Conclusion: Differentiating human fat cells in primary culture develops an insulin-responsive glucose transport system which exhibits a high stability, thereby providing a valuable model for long-term studies of glucose transport and GLUT4 expression in human adipocytes.