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J Clin Invest. 1970 Dec;49(12):2256-70.

Glucagon levels and metabolic effects in fasting man.


The role of glucagon in the metabolic adaptation to prolonged fasting in man has been examined. Plasma immunoreactive glucagon was determined during 6-wk fasts and during infusion of exogenous glucagon using an assay which minimized nonpancreatic immunoreactivity. Plasma glucagon concentrations rose twofold to a peak on the 3rd day of fasting and then declined thereafter to a level maintained at or above postabsorptive. Insulin concentration declined to a plateau by the 3rd day. Thus a persisting altered relationship of glucagon and insulin concentrations characterized the fasted state. A synergism of low insulin and relative or absolute elevation of glucagon levels is viewed as a hormonal mechanism controlling the rate of hepatic substrate extraction for gluconeogenesis. Glucagon was infused systemically into 4-6 wk fasted subjects at three dose levels. A marked sensitivity of individual plasma free amino acids to the induced elevations of plasma glucagon within the physiologic range was demonstrated. At higher concentrations, equivalent to those present in the portal vein, stimulation of hepatic gluconeogenesis occurred, and the effects on glucose, insulin, and growth hormone levels and on ketone metabolism were induced.

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