Background: Insulin resistance, a major factor in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes mellitus, is due mostly to decreased stimulation of glycogen synthesis in muscle by insulin. The primary rate-controlling step responsible for the decrease in muscle glycogen synthesis is not known, although hexokinase activity and glucose transport have been implicated.
Methods: We used a novel nuclear magnetic resonance approach with carbon-13 and phosphorus-31 to measure intramuscular glucose, glucose-6-phosphate, and glycogen concentrations under hyperglycemic conditions (plasma glucose concentration, approximately 180 mg per deciliter [10 mmol per liter]) and hyperinsulinemic conditions in six patients with type 2 diabetes and seven normal subjects. In vivo microdialysis of muscle tissue was used to determine the gradient between plasma and interstitial-fluid glucose concentrations, and open-flow microperfusion was used to determine the concentrations of insulin in interstitial fluid.
Results: The time course and concentration of insulin in interstitial fluid were similar in the patients with diabetes and the normal subjects. The rates of whole-body glucose metabolism and muscle glycogen synthesis and the glucose-6-phosphate concentrations in muscle were approximately 80 percent lower in the patients with diabetes than in the normal subjects under conditions of matched plasma insulin concentrations. The mean (+/-SD) intracellular glucose concentration was 2.0+/-8.2 mg per deciliter (0.11+/-0.46 mmol per liter) in the normal subjects. In the patients with diabetes, the intracellular glucose concentration was 4.3+/-4.9 mg per deciliter (0.24+/-0.27 mmol per liter), a value that was 1/25 of what it would be if hexokinase were the rate-controlling enzyme in glucose metabolism.
Conclusions: Impaired insulin-stimulated glucose transport is responsible for the reduced rate of insulin-stimulated muscle glycogen synthesis in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.