Localizing glucose transport proteins: Active investigation of passive carriers


  • Jorge J. Gumucio,

    1. Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Room 111D, VA Medical Center/University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
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  • Jonathan D. Kaunitz M.D.

    1. Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
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The “liver” isoform of the facilitated diffusion glucose transporter is expressed predominantly in liver, intestine, kidney, and pancreatic islet α-cells. The apparent molecular mass of the transporter in liver, kidney, and intestine is different, as detected by Western blot analysis of membrane proteins using antipeptide antibodies. However, as assessed by Northern blot analysis and molecular cloning, the same mRNA is expressed in these tissues, indicating that there are tissue-specific posttranslational modifications of the same transporter polypeptide. As determined by immunofluorescence analysis on frozen tissue sections, the liver glucose transporter is present on the sinusoidal membrane of hepatocytes, on the basolateral membrane of fully differentiated absorptive intestine epithelial cells, and on the basolateral membrane of proximal tubule cells of the kidney nephron. This localization is consistent with the involvement of the liver glucose transporter in several key steps of glucose metabolism: glucose uptake and release by the liver and absorption or reabsorption by epithelial cells of the intestine and kidney, respectively.

The localization of two glucose transporter isoforms was mapped in the rat kidney: the high-Michaelis constant (Km; 15-20mM) low-affinity “liver” transporter and the low-Km (1-2mM) high-affinity erythroid/brain transporter. Both are basolateral membrane proteins, but the liver transporter was present exclusively in the S1 part of the proximal tubule, whereas the erythroid/brain transporter was expressed at variable levels in different nephron segments. Staining intensity was low in the straight proximal tubule (S3), intermediate in the medullary thin and thick ascending limbs, and highest in connecting segments and collecting ducts. In the collecting duct, the erythroid/brain glucose transporter was expressed at the highest level in intercalated cells; less was present in principal cells. In the papilla, only intercalated cells expressed this transporter isoform. These results suggest specific involvement of each transporter isoform in transepithelial glucose reabsorption by different segments of the proximal tubule. They also indicate that while the liver glucose transporter is present in gluconeogenic cells, there is a good correlation between the level of expression of the erythroid/brain glucose transporter and the glycolytic activity of the different nephron segments.