Homocysteine sulfinic acid (HCSA) is a homologue of the amino acid cysteine and a selective metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) agonist. However, the metabolic role of HCSA is poorly understood. In this study, we showed that HCSA and glutamate stimulated glucose uptake in C2C12 mouse myoblast cells and increased AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) phosphorylation. RT-PCR and Western blot analysis revealed that C2C12 expresses mGluR5. HCSA transiently increased the intracellular calcium concentration. Although α-methyl-4-carboxyphenylglycine, a metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonist, blocked the action of HCSA in intracellular calcium response and AMPK phosphorylation, 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione, an AMPA antagonist, did not exhibit such effects. Knockdown of mGluR5 with siRNA blocked HCSA-induced AMPK phosphorylation. Pretreatment of cells with STO-609, a calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase (CaMKK) inhibitor, blocked HCSA-induced AMPK phosphorylation, and knockdown of CaMKK blocked HCSA-induced AMPK phosphorylation. In addition, HCSA activated p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Expression of dominant-negative AMPK suppressed HCSA-mediated phosphorylation of p38 MAPK, and inhibition of AMPK and p38 MAPK blocked HCSA-induced glucose uptake. Phosphorylation of protein kinase C ζ (PKCζ) was also increased by HCSA. Pharmacologic inhibition or knockdown of p38 MAPK blocked HCSA-induced PKCζ phosphorylation, and knockdown of PKCζ suppressed the HCSA-induced increase of cell surface GLUT4. The stimulatory effect of HCSA on cell surface GLUT4 was impaired in FITC-conjugated PKCζ siRNA-transfected cells. Together, the above results suggest that HCSA may have a beneficial role in glucose metabolism in skeletal muscle cells via stimulation of AMPK
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