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Diabetes. 1989 Dec;38(12):1512-27.

Lilly lecture 1989. Toward physiological understanding of glucose tolerance. Minimal-model approach.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Southern California Medical School, Los Angeles 90033.


Glucose tolerance depends on a complex interaction among insulin secretion from the beta-cells, clearance of the hormone, and the actions of insulin to accelerate glucose disappearance and inhibit endogenous glucose production. An additional factor, less well recognized, is the ability of glucose per se, independent of changes in insulin, to increase glucose uptake and suppress endogenous output (glucose effectiveness). These factors can be measured in the intact organism with physiologically based minimal models of glucose utilization and insulin kinetics. With the glucose minimal model, insulin sensitivity (SI) and glucose effectiveness (SG) are measured by computer analysis of the frequently sampled intravenous glucose tolerance test. The test involves intravenous injection of glucose followed by tolbutamide or insulin and frequent blood sampling. SI varied from a high of 7.6 x 10(-4) in young Whites to 2.3 x 10(-4) in obese nondiabetic subjects; in all of the nondiabetic subjects, SG was normal. In subjects with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), not only was SI reduced 90% below normal (0.61 +/- 0.16 x 10(-4), but in this group alone, SG was reduced (from 0.026 +/- 0.008 to 0.014 +/- 0.002 min-1); thus, defects in SI and SG are synergistic in causing glucose intolerance in NIDDM. One assumption of the minimal model is that the time delay in insulin action on glucose utilization in vivo is due to sluggish insulin transport across the capillary endothelium. This was tested by comparing insulin concentrations in plasma with those in lymph (representing interstitial fluid) during euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic glucose clamps. Lymph insulin was lower than plasma insulin at basal (12 vs. 18 microU/ml) and at steady state, indicating significant loss of insulin from the interstitial space, presumably due to cellular uptake of the insulin-receptor complex. Additionally, during clamps, lymph insulin changed more slowly than plasma insulin, but the rate of glucose utilization followed a time course identical with that of lymph (r = .96) rather than plasma (r = .71). Thus, lymph insulin, which may be reflective of interstitial fluid, is the signal to which insulin-sensitive tissues are responding. These studies support the concept that, at physiological insulin levels, the time for insulin to cross the capillary endothelium is the process that determines the rate of insulin action in vivo.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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