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Diabetes Care. 2005 Nov;28(11):2710-5.

The impact of insulin resistance on proinsulin secretion in pregnancy: hyperproinsulinemia is not a feature of gestational diabetes.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Excessive secretion of the insulin precursor proinsulin, as manifested by an increased serum proinsulin-to-insulin ratio, has been associated with beta-cell dysfunction. In women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), previous studies of the proinsulin-to-insulin ratio have yielded conflicting results, despite the presence of beta-cell dysfunction. The interpretation of the proinsulin-to-insulin ratio, however, may be confounded by the variable effects of hepatic insulin extraction. Thus, we sought to determine whether GDM is characterized by relative hyperproinsulinemia as measured by the proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio, an alternate measure of proinsulin secretion that is not affected by hepatic insulin extraction.


Serum proinsulin, C-peptide, and insulin were measured in a cross-sectional study of 180 women undergoing oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTTs) in the late second or early third trimester. Based on the OGTT, participants were stratified into three groups: 1) normal glucose tolerance (NGT; n = 93), 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT; n = 39), and 3) GDM (n = 48). Insulin sensitivity (IS) was measured using the IS(OGTT) index of Matsuda and DeFronzo, which has been previously validated in pregnant women.


There were no significant differences in mean fasting proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio between the three glucose tolerance groups (NGT, 0.024; IGT, 0.022; GDM, 0.019; P = 0.4). Furthermore, adjustment for age, weeks' gestation, prepregnancy BMI, ethnicity, previous GDM, and family history of diabetes did not reveal any association between the proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio and glucose tolerance status. Using Spearman univariate correlation analysis, fasting proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio was significantly correlated with IS(OGTT) (r = 0.29, P < 0.0001) and inversely related to the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (r = -0.36, P < 0.0001) and prepregnancy BMI (r = -0.23, P < 0.005). On multiple linear regression analysis, IS(OGTT) emerged as the strongest independent correlate of the dependent variable proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio. Furthermore, after adjustment for potential covariates, a stepwise decrease in proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio was observed per decreasing tertile of IS(OGTT) (trend P = 0.0019), consistent with enhanced efficiency of proinsulin processing (i.e., reduced proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio) as insulin resistance increases.


GDM is not independently associated with hyperproinsulinemia as measured by the proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio. Instead, in pregnant women, increased insulin resistance is associated with decreased proinsulin-to-C-peptide ratio, independently of glucose tolerance status. These data suggest that relative proinsulin secretion in late pregnancy is primarily related to insulin resistance and does not necessarily reflect beta-cell function.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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