By using glycerol density gradients of post-plasma membrane supernatants from rat adipocytes, we have been able to separate the compartment containing GLUT4 from that containing transferrin receptors. The major pool of GLUT4 (≈ 80%) is localised to dense fractions, which also contain VAMP2, while the remainder is in lighter fractions, some of which also contain transferrin receptors. AP1 and AP3 complexes are detected in two fractions, the heavier of which co-sediments with the major pool of GLUT4. Nycodenz gradients have been used to examine the in vitro effects of GTP-γ-S on adaptor recruitment. On addition of GTPγS, GLUT4 vesicles fractionate as a heavier population of vesicles, which we suggest is due to a coating reaction. Under these conditions there is an increase in co-sedimentation of GLUT4 with API, but not with AP3. Western blotting of proteins associated with isolated GLUT4 vesicles shows the presence of AP1 and AP3 adaptor complexes. Cell free, in vitro association of the AP1 complex with GLUT4 vesicles is increased 3-fold by the addition of GTP-γ-S and an ATP regenerating system to the post-plasma membrane lysate. and 4-fold by carrying out the incubation at 37°C compared with 0°C. These data demonstrate that GLUT4 subcellular localisation can be studied in isolated fractions and that GLUT4 compartments are associated with at least two distinct adaptor complexes.

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