Role of glycogen synthase kinase-3 in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes

Erik J. Henriksen, Betsy B. Dokken

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


A reduced ability of insulin to activate glucose transport in skeletal muscle, termed insulin resistance, is a primary defect leading to the development of impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes. Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) is a serine/threonine kinase with important roles in the regulation of glycogen synthesis, protein synthesis, gene transcription, and cell differentiation in various cell types. An emerging body of evidence has implicated GSK-3 in the multifactorial etiology of skeletal muscle insulin resistance in obese animal models and in obese human type 2 diabetic subjects. Overexpression and overactivity of GSK-3 in skeletal muscle of rodent models of obesity and obese type 2 diabetic humans are associated with an impaired ability of insulin to activate glucose disposal and glycogen synthase. New insights into the importance of GSK-3 as a regulator of insulin action on glucose transport activity in muscle have come from studies utilizing selective and sensitive inhibitors of GSK-3. These studies have demonstrated that selective inhibition of GSK-3 in insulin-resistant skeletal muscle causes improvements in insulin-stimulated glucose transport activity that are likely caused by enhanced post-insulin receptor insulin signaling and GLUT-4 glucose transporter translocation. An additional important action of these GSK-3 inhibitors in the context of obese-associated type 2 diabetes is a reduction of hepatic glucose production, likely via downregulation of genes associated with gluconeogensis. It is clear from these studies that selectively targeting GSK-3 in skeletal muscle may be an important new strategy for the treatment of obesity-associated insulin-resistant states characterized by GSK-3 overactivity in insulin-sensitive tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1435-1441
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Drug Targets
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Glucose transport
  • Insulin signaling
  • Liver
  • Selective GSK3 inhibitors
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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