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N Engl J Med. 1984 Sep 6;311(10):629-34.

Familial hyperproinsulinemia due to a proposed defect in conversion of proinsulin to insulin.


Familial hyperproinsulinemia is a genetic disorder characterized by elevated plasma levels of proinsulin-like material. In two previously described kindreds this has been shown to be due to a structural abnormality in the proinsulin molecule. We have identified a third family with hyperproinsulinemia in which there appeared to be a different defect. The propositus, a 12-year-old girl, had borderline glucose intolerance and markedly elevated immunoreactive-insulin levels on oral glucose-tolerance testing. Gel filtration of plasma revealed that 66 per cent of circulating insulin immunoreactivity was accounted for by the proinsulin-like components. Two of four siblings, the father, and the paternal grandfather also had elevated fasting insulin immunoreactivity in the presence of normal plasma glucose concentrations and elevated levels of proinsulin-like material. In vitro tryptic digestion of plasma proinsulin-like material from an affected family member revealed that proinsulin was converted to insulin in a manner indistinguishable from that in the control. Similarly, proinsulin and insulin exhibited normal activity in a radioreceptor assay. These findings suggest that the proinsulin molecule in this family was normal and that hyperproinsulinemia was due to a defect in the conversion of proinsulin to insulin.

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