Hexosamines have been hypothesized to mediate aspects of glucose sensing and toxic effects of hyperglycemia. For example, insulin resistance results when the rate-limiting enzyme for hexosamine synthesis, glutamine:fructose- 6-phosphate amidotransferase (GFA), is overexpressed in muscle and adipose tissue of transgenic mice. The glucose infusion rates required to maintain euglycemia at insulin infusion rates of 0.5, 2, 15, and 20 mU/kg·min were 39-90% lower in such transgenic mice, compared with their control littermates (P ≤ 0.01). No differences were observed in hepatic glucose output, serum insulin levels, or muscle ATP levels. Uptake of 2-deoxyglucose, measured under conditions of hyperinsulinemia, was significantly lower in transgenic hindlimb muscle, compared with controls (85.9 ± 17.8 vs. 166.8 ± 15.1 pmol deoxyglucose/g·min). The decrease in glucose uptake by transgenic muscle was associated with a disruption in the translocation of the insulin-stimulated glucose transporter GLUT4. Fractionation of muscle membranes on a discontinuous sucrose gradient revealed that insulin stimulation of control muscle led to a 28.8% increase in GLUT4 content in the 25% fraction and a 61.2% decrease in the 35% fraction. In transgenic muscle, the insulin- stimulated shifts in GLUT4 distribution were inhibited by over 70%. Treatment of the transgenic animals with the thiazolidinedione troglitazone completely reversed the defect in glucose disposal without changing GFA activity or the levels of uridine 5'-diphosphate-N-acetylglucosamine. Overexpression of GFA in skeletal muscle thus leads to defects in glucose transport similar to those seen in type 2 diabetes. These data support the hypothesis that excess glucose metabolism through the hexosamine pathway may be responsible for the diminished insulin sensitivity and defective glucose uptake that are seen with hyperglycemia.