PKB (protein kinase B), also known as Akt, is a key component of insulin signalling. Defects in PKB activation lead to insulin resistance and metabolic disorders, whereas PKB overactivation has been linked to tumour growth. Small-molecule PKB inhibitors have thus been developed for cancer treatment, but also represent useful tools to probe the roles of PKB in insulin action. In the present study, we examined the acute effects of two allosteric PKB inhibitors, MK-2206 and Akti 1/2 (Akti) on PKB signalling in incubated rat soleus muscles. We also assessed the effects of the compounds on insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, glycogen and protein synthesis. MK-2206 dose-dependently inhibited insulin-stimulated PKB phosphorylation, PKBβ activity and phosphorylation of PKB downstream targets (including glycogen synthase kinase-3α/β, proline-rich Akt substrate of 40 kDa and Akt substrate of 160 kDa). Insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, glycogen synthesis and glycogen synthase activity were also decreased by MK-2206 in a dose-dependent manner. Incubation with high doses of MK-2206 (10 μM) inhibited insulin-induced p70 ribosomal protein S6 kinase and 4E-BP1 (eukaryotic initiation factor 4E-binding protein-1) phosphorylation associated with increased eEF2 (eukaryotic elongation factor 2) phosphorylation. In contrast, Akti only modestly inhibited insulin-induced PKB and mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) signalling, with little or no effect on glucose uptake and protein synthesis. MK-2206, rather than Akti, would thus be the tool of choice for studying the role of PKB in insulin action in skeletal muscle. The results point to a key role for PKB in mediating insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, glycogen synthesis and protein synthesis in skeletal muscle.

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