Taste buds on the tongue "feel" sugar. After the meal, the beta cells in the pancreas increase the level of glucose in the blood and secrete the hormone insulin, which helps sugar enter the cells where it is used by the body for energy.
Researchers from the Institute of Natural Sciences of the University of Michigan discovered an unexpected mechanism of glucose sensation in skeletal muscle, which contributes to the overall regulation of blood sugar levels.
"We found that the cells of the skeletal muscle glucose feel - in a sense, it seems that the muscle can" try "taste sugar", - says senior researcher Lin Žandov.
The ability of muscles to sense glucose in the blood is a separate parallel process, which increases the insulin response. The study was published on May 4 in Molecular Cell.
"By continuing to study how the body is a self-regulating blood sugar levels on a molecular level, we can shed light on obesity and diabetes, as well as to identify new therapeutic targets," - says Zuhian Meng, author of the work. The researchers studied the skeletal muscles of mice by switching off the key BAF60C gene.
"Mice without the gene BAF60C looked absolutely normal, but after we gave them a diet high in fat to cause obesity, they had problems with the disposal of additional glucose after meals - Lin says. - The usual mechanism of assimilation of insulin was insufficient for independent processing of glucose. "
Elevated levels of blood sugar after a meal is a key symptom of type 2 diabetes. Chronic high blood sugar, hyperglycemia can lead to serious health problems.
"We found that a molecular pathway that is involved in glucose in muscle cells, at least in the initial stages, is very similar to what happens in the beta cells of the pancreas, - says Lin. - This discovery is of interest, since there is an important class of diabetic drugs known as sulfonylureas, which act by closing the potassium channel and causing the beta cells to secrete more insulin. Research shows that the way the sensitivity to glucose in muscle cells plays a role in the overall action of drugs that lower blood glucose level. "
"It's amazing how subtle changes in glucose are reflected throughout the body," - Lin said. - In addition to the beta cells and nerve cells muscle cells respond too. "