Cushing's syndrome and glucocorticoid therapy lead to central obesity, insulin resistance, and symptoms of altered energy regulation similar to those observed in the metabolic syndrome. We hypothesized that excess glucocorticoids alter energy sensing/signaling in skeletal muscle through mediation of the LKB1/AMPK signaling pathway. To test this hypothesis, three 100 mg pellets of corticosterone were implanted subcutaneously in each of nine rats for two weeks. Responses were compared with sham operated controls fed ad libitum or food restricted to produce the body weights similar to the treatment group rats. After the treatment period, animals were anesthetized and the right gastrocnemius-plantaris and soleus were removed for analysis. After tibial nerve stimulation for 5 min, the left gastrocnemius-plantaris and soleus were also removed. We assessed AMPK activity and subunit expression, as well as several metabolic indicators including ATP, creatine phosphate, creatine, glycogen, and malonyl-CoA levels in rested and stimulated gastrocnemius-plantaris and soleus muscles. We found that high levels of glucocorticoids decreased AMPKγ3 subunit expression in the gastrocnemius-plantaris. We also observed reduced AMPKα2 activity in the stimulated gastrocnemius-plantaris, but not the soleus; and that this decreased activity corresponded to a significant reduction in phosphorylated TBC1D1, a protein involved in signaling GLUT-4 translocation. Finally, in the gastrocnemius-plantaris, we also noted an increase in glycogen stores in the hypercorticosteronemic rats. Our data suggest that altered energy sensing/signaling associated with high levels of glucocorticoids may be due in part to inhibition of AMPKα2 activity and the high energy state produced by increased glycogen stores. We also conclude that high levels of glucocorticoids decrease the levels of AMPKγ3 and diminish insulin/contraction signaling through phosphorylated TBC1D1.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Physiology and Developmental Biology



Date Submitted


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AMPK, Corticosterone, Cushing's syndrome, Glucocorticoids, GLUT-4, Glycogen, Insulin signaling, Metabolic syndrome, TBC1D1