Insulin stimulates translocation of human GLUT4 to the membrane in fat bodies of transgenic Drosophila melanogaster. Academic Article uri icon


  • The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an excellent model system for studies of genes controlling development and disease. However, its applicability to physiological systems is less clear because of metabolic differences between insects and mammals. Insulin signaling has been studied in mammals because of relevance to diabetes and other diseases but there are many parallels between mammalian and insect pathways. For example, deletion of Drosophila Insulin-Like Peptides resulted in 'diabetic' flies with elevated circulating sugar levels. Whether this situation reflects failure of sugar uptake into peripheral tissues as seen in mammals is unclear and depends upon whether flies harbor the machinery to mount mammalian-like insulin-dependent sugar uptake responses. Here we asked whether Drosophila fat cells are competent to respond to insulin with mammalian-like regulated trafficking of sugar transporters. Transgenic Drosophila expressing human glucose transporter-4 (GLUT4), the sugar transporter expressed primarily in insulin-responsive tissues, were generated. After expression in fat bodies, GLUT4 intracellular trafficking and localization were monitored by confocal and total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM). We found that fat body cells responded to insulin with increased GLUT4 trafficking and translocation to the plasma membrane. While the amplitude of these responses was relatively weak in animals reared on a standard diet, it was greatly enhanced in animals reared on sugar-restricted diets, suggesting that flies fed standard diets are insulin resistant. Our findings demonstrate that flies are competent to mobilize translocation of sugar transporters to the cell surface in response to insulin. They suggest that Drosophila fat cells are primed for a response to insulin and that these pathways are down-regulated when animals are exposed to constant, high levels of sugar. Finally, these studies are the first to use TIRFM to monitor insulin-signaling pathways in Drosophila, demonstrating the utility of TIRFM of tagged sugar transporters to monitor signaling pathways in insects.

publication date

  • 2013