Biology open

Dynamic GLUT4 sorting through a syntaxin-6 compartment in muscle cells is derailed by insulin resistance-causing ceramide.

PMID 24705014


GLUT4 constitutively recycles between the plasma membrane and intracellular depots. Insulin shifts this dynamic equilibrium towards the plasma membrane by recruiting GLUT4 to the plasma membrane from insulin-responsive vesicles. Muscle is the primary site for dietary glucose deposition; however, how GLUT4 sorts into insulin-responsive vesicles, and if and how insulin resistance affects this process, is unknown. In L6 myoblasts stably expressing myc-tagged GLUT4, we analyzed the intracellular itinerary of GLUT4 as it internalizes from the cell surface and examined if such sorting is perturbed by C2-ceramide, a lipid metabolite causing insulin resistance. Surface-labeled GLUT4myc that internalized for 30 min accumulated in a Syntaxin-6 (Stx6)- and Stx16-positive perinuclear sub-compartment devoid of furin or internalized transferrin, and displayed insulin-responsive re-exocytosis. C2-ceramide dispersed the Stx6-positive sub-compartment and prevented insulin-responsive re-exocytosis of internalized GLUT4myc, even under conditions not affecting insulin-stimulated signaling towards Akt. Microtubule disruption with nocodazole prevented pre-internalized GLUT4myc from reaching the Stx6-positive perinuclear sub-compartment and from undergoing insulin-responsive exocytosis. Removing nocodazole allowed both parameters to recover, suggesting that the Stx6-positive perinuclear sub-compartment was required for GLUT4 insulin-responsiveness. Accordingly, Stx6 knockdown inhibited by ∼50% the ability of internalized GLUT4myc to undergo insulin-responsive re-exocytosis without altering its overall perinuclear accumulation. We propose that Stx6 defines the insulin-responsive compartment in muscle cells. Our data are consistent with a model where ceramide could cause insulin resistance by altering intracellular GLUT4 sorting.