Insulin effects on glucose and potassium metabolism in vivo: Evidence for selective insulin resistance in humans

Pinchas Cohen, Nir Barzilai, Amir Lerman, Hava Harel, Pedro Szylman, Eddy Karnieli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The effects of insulin on in vivo glucose use and potassium uptake in healthy humans are well documented. However, the interrelationship between these two processes is not fully defined. In order to characterize it, we have used the euglycemic clamp technique on six normal volunteers, two patients with acanthosis nigricans and insulin resistance (AN), and one patient with idiopathic nonazotemic hyperkalemia (HK). In the basal state, all patients had normal fasting blood sugar, the AN patients had fasting hyperinsulinemia (600% of controls), and the HK patient had an elevated plasma potassium level of 5.1 mmol/L (n = 4.2 ± 0.2 mmol/L). During low dose (1 mU/kg · min), and high dose (10 mU/kg · min) insulin infusions, normals used glucose at a rate of 220 ± 10 and 470 ± 20 mg/M2 · min, respectively. The HK patient had a normal glucose use at both infusion rates, but the AN patients had a 20% decrease of glucose use compared to normals at the two infusion rates. In normal patients, plasma potassium fell by 0.7 and 1.4 mmol/L at the end of the two infusion periods, respectively. AN patients had a similar fall in potassium, but the HK patient displayed no change in plasma potassium levels during a low dose insulin infusion, and only a 0.6 mmol/L drop during the high dose insulin infusion. These results indicate that: 1) patients with AN are resistant to insulin action on glucose use, 2) AN patients have a normal response to insulin on potassium uptake, 3) HK is a patient with normal response to insulin on glucose use, and 4) this patient is resistant to insulin action on potassium uptake. In conclusion: 1) we have demonstrated the independence of insulin action on glucose and potassium uptake in vivo, 2) we documented the existence of selective insulin resistance in the above patients, 3) we speculate, that in patients with a normal response to insulin on one parameter of its actions, and subnormal response on another parameter, a postreceptor defect rather than a receptor abnormality must exist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-568
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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