6.22 Glycogenesis & Glycogenolysis

As discussed earlier, glycogen is the animal storage form of glucose. If a person is in an anabolic state, such as after consuming a meal, most glucose-6-phosphate within the myocytes (muscle cells) or hepatocytes (liver cells) is going to be stored as glycogen. The structure is shown below as a reminder.

Figure 6.221 Structure of glycogen1

Glycogen is mainly stored in the liver and the muscle. It makes up ~6% of the wet weight of the liver and only 1% of muscle wet weight. However, since we have far more muscle mass in our body, there is 3-4 times more glycogen stored in muscle than in the liver2. We have limited glycogen storage capacity. Thus, after a high-carbohydrate meal, our glycogen stores will reach capacity. After glycogen stores are filled, glucose will have to be metabolized in different ways for it to be stored in a different form.


The synthesis of glycogen from glucose is a process known as glycogenesis. Glucose-6-phosphate is not inserted directly into glycogen in this process. There are a couple of steps before it is incorporated. First, glucose-6-phosphate is converted to glucose-1-phosphate and then converted to uridine diphosphate (UDP)-glucose. UDP-glucose is inserted into glycogen by either the enzyme, glycogen synthase (alpha-1,4 bonds), or the branching enzyme (alpha-1,6 bonds) at the branch points3.

Figure 6.222 Glycogenesis


The process of liberating glucose from glycogen is known as glycogenolysis. This process is essentially the opposite of glycogenesis with two exceptions: (1) there is no UDP-glucose step, and (2) a different enzyme, glycogen phosphorylase, is involved. Glucose-1-phosphate is cleaved from glycogen by the enzyme, glycogen phosphorylase, which then can be converted to glucose-6-phosphate as shown below3.

Figure 6.223 Glycogenolysis

References & Links

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Glycogen.png

2. Shils ME, Shike M, Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, editors. (2006) Modern nutrition in health and disease. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

3. Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. (2008) Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.