Comparison of Glucose Uptake Assay Methods

This article describes the various methods available to measure glucose uptake and lists the advantages and disadvantages of each assay. Among these assays is the new non-radioactive Glucose Uptake-Glo™ Assay, a simple and sensitive luminescent-based method for use with multiwell plates.


Glucose is the primary source of energy for many organisms, and the uptake of glucose is a critical process. Glucose is transported across the cell’s membrane and trapped by being phosphorylated. In mammalian cells, this is performed by a family of glucose transporters (GLUT) and a few intracellular hexose kinases. Note that measuring glucose uptake is not the same as measuring glucose consumption. Glucose uptake occurs on a rapid time scale of 10 minutes or less and specifically measures transporter activity, whereas changes in glucose concentration involve a multitude of pathways and typically take several hours.

Why Measure Glucose Uptake?

We can learn several things from measuring glucose uptake. Changes in glucose uptake can reflect overall changes in metabolism, but there are many specific processes as well. In cancer cells, measuring glucose uptake can monitor the overexpression of glucose transporters or identify glucose transporter inhibitors. With fat and muscle cells, changes in GLUT4 translocation upon insulin stimulation can be observed by measuring glucose uptake. In immunologically relevant cells, measuring glucose uptake can be used to follow the transformation of certain cell types from one stage to another.

System Model Cells Purpose
Cancer cells Any cancer cell (e.g., HCT116) Monitor glucose transporter overexpression, identify glucose transporter inhibitors or measure general changes in metabolism
Fat and muscle cells 3T3-L1, 3T3-L1-MBX, L6, C2C12 Monitor GLUT4 translocation in response to insulin
Immunologically relevant cells T cells and macrophages Monitor cell activation

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Last updated: Jun 8, 2023 at 9:06 AM


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