Glucagon changes substrate preference in gluconeogenesis

Huiting Xu, Yujue Wang, Hyokjoon Kwon, Ankit Shah, Katarzyna Kalemba, Xiaoyang Su, Ling He, Fredric E. Wondisford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fasting hyperglycemia in diabetes mellitus is caused by unregulated glucagon secretion that activates gluconeogenesis (GNG) and increases the use of pyruvate, lactate, amino acids, and glycerol. Studies of GNG in hepatocytes, however, tend to test a limited number of substrates at nonphysiologic concentrations. Therefore, we treated cultured primary hepatocytes with three identical substrate mixtures of pyruvate/lactate, glutamine, and glycerol at serum fasting concentrations, where a different U-13C– or 2-13C–labeled substrate was substituted in each mix. In the absence of glucagon stimulation, 80% of the glucose produced in primary hepatocytes incorporated either one or two 13C-labeled glycerol molecules in a 1:1 ratio, reflecting the high overall activity of this pathway. In contrast, glucose produced from 13C-labeled pyruvate/lactate or glutamine rarely incorporated two labeled molecules. While glucagon increased the glycerol and pyruvate/lactate contributions to glucose carbon by 1.6- and 1.8-fold, respectively, the glutamine contribution to glucose carbon was increased 6.4-fold in primary hepatocytes. To account for substrate 13C carbon loss during metabolism, we also performed a metabolic flux analysis, which confirmed that the majority of glucose carbon produced by primary hepatocytes was from glycerol. In vivo studies using a PKA-activation mouse model that represents elevated glucagon activity confirmed that most circulating lactate carbons originated from glycerol, but very little glycerol was derived from lactate carbons, reflecting glycerol's importance as a carbon donor to GNG. Given the diverse entry points for GNG substrates, hepatic glucagon action is unlikely to be due to a single mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102708
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • PKA
  • glucagon
  • gluconeogenesis
  • glycerol
  • liver metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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