Chloroquine stimulates glucose uptake and glycogen synthase in muscle cells through activation of Akt

Marie Jo Halaby, Brandon K. Kastein, DaQing Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Chloroquine is a pharmaceutical agent that has been widely used to treat patients with malaria. Chloroquine has also been reported to have hypoglycemic effects on humans and animal models of diabetes. Despite many previous studies, the mechanism responsible for its hypoglycemic effect is still unclear. Chloroquine was recently reported to be an activator of ATM, the protein deficient in the Ataxia-telagiectasia (A-T) disease. Since ATM is also known as an insulin responsive protein that mediates Akt activation, we tested the effect of chloroquine on the activity of Akt and its downstream targets. In L6 muscle cells treated with insulin and chloroquine, the phosphorylation of Akt and glucose uptake were dramatically increased compared to cells treated with insulin alone, suggesting that chloroquine is a potent activator of Akt and glucose uptake in these cells. We also found that the reduction of insulin-mediated Akt activity in muscle tissues of insulin resistant rats was partially reversed by chloroquine treatment. Moreover, insulin-mediated phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase-3β in L6 cells was greatly enhanced by chloroquine. A substantial decrease in phosphorylation of glycogen synthase was also observed in chloroquine-treated L6 cells, indicating enhanced activity of glycogen synthase. Taken together, our results not only show that chloroquine is a novel activator of Akt that stimulates glucose uptake and glycogen synthase, but also validate chloroquine as a potential therapeutic agent for patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)708-713
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 14 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Jody Hibma and Lorinda Simon for their technical assistance. Funding for this project was supported by an Innovation Award from the American Diabetes Association and a Research Award from the A-T Children’s Project.


  • ATM
  • Akt
  • Chloroquine
  • Glucose uptake
  • Glycogen synthase
  • Glycogen synthase kinase-3β


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