Quantifying the Contribution of the Liver to Glucose Homeostasis: A Detailed Kinetic Model of Human Hepatic Glucose Metabolism
Despite the crucial role of the liver in glucose homeostasis, a detailed mathematical model of human hepatic glucose metabolism is lacking so far. Here we present a detailed kinetic model of glycolysis, gluconeogenesis and glycogen metabolism in human hepatocytes integrated with the hormonal control of these pathways by insulin, glucagon and epinephrine. Model simulations are in good agreement with experimental data on (i) the quantitative contributions of glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, and glycogen metabolism to hepatic glucose production and hepatic glucose utilization under varying physiological states. (ii) the time courses of postprandial glycogen storage as well as glycogen depletion in overnight fasting and short term fasting (iii) the switch from net hepatic glucose production under hypoglycemia to net hepatic glucose utilization under hyperglycemia essential for glucose homeostasis (iv) hormone perturbations of hepatic glucose metabolism. Response analysis reveals an extra high capacity of the liver to counteract changes of plasma glucose level below 5 mM (hypoglycemia) and above 7.5 mM (hyperglycemia). Our model may serve as an important module of a whole-body model of human glucose metabolism and as a valuable tool for understanding the role of the liver in glucose homeostasis under normal conditions and in diseases like diabetes or glycogen storage diseases. Glucose is an indispensable fuel for all cells and organs, but at the same time leads to problems at high concentrations. As a consequence, blood glucose is controlled in a narrow range to guarantee constant supply and on the other hand avoid damages associated with elevated glucose levels. The liver is the main organ controlling blood glucose by (i) releasing newly synthesized or stored glucose in the blood stream when blood glucose is low (ii) using and storing glucose when blood glucose is elevated. These processes are regulated by hormones, in particular insulin, glucagon and epinephrine. We developed the first detailed kinetic model of this crucial metabolic system integrated with its hormonal control and validated the model based on a multitude of experimental data. Our model enables for the first time to simulate hepatic glucose metabolism in depth. Our results show how due to the hormonal control of key enzymes the liver metabolism can be switched between glucose production and utilization. We provide an essential model to analyze glucose regulation in the normal state and diseases associated with defects in glucose homeostasis like diabetes.