Large enhancement of skeletal muscle cell glucose uptake and suppression of hepatocyte glucose-6-phosphatase activity by weak uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation

Louis C Martineau
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 2012, 1820 (2): 133-50

BACKGROUND: Perturbation of energy homeostasis in skeletal muscle and liver resulting from a transient inhibition of mitochondrial energy transduction can produce effects of relevance for the control of hyperglycemia through activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase, as exemplified by the antidiabetic drug metformin. The present study focuses on uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation rather than its inhibition as a trigger for such effects.

METHODS: The reference weak uncoupler 2,4-dinitrophenol, fourteen naturally-occurring phenolic compounds identified as uncouplers in isolated rat liver mitochondria, and fourteen related compounds with little or no uncoupling activity were tested for enhancement of glucose uptake in differentiated C2C12 skeletal muscle cells following 18 h of treatment at 25-100 μM. A subset of compounds were tested for suppression of glucose-6-phosphatase (G6Pase) activity in H4IIE hepatocytes following 16 h at 12.5-25 μM. Metformin (400 μM) was used as a standard in both assays.

RESULTS: Dinitrophenol and nine of eleven compounds that induced 50% or more uncoupling at 100 μM in isolated mitochondria enhanced basal glucose uptake by 53 to 269%; the effect of the 4'-hydroxychalcone butein was more than 6-fold that of metformin; negative control compounds increased uptake by no more than 25%. Dinitrophenol and four 4'-hydroxychalconoids also suppressed hepatocyte G6Pase as well as, or more effectively than metformin, whereas the unsubstituted parent compound chalcone, devoid of uncoupling activity, had no effect.

CONCLUSIONS: Activities key to glycemic control can be induced by a wide range of weak uncouplers, including compounds free of difficult-to-metabolize groups typically associated with uncouplers.

GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE: Uncoupling represents a valid and possibly more efficient alternative to inhibition for triggering cytoprotective effects of therapeutic relevance to insulin resistance in both muscle and liver. Identification of actives of natural origin and the insights into their structure-activity relationship reported herein may lead to alternatives to metformin.

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