Proinsulin in pregnant women with normal glucose tolerance or mild gestational diabetes mellitus

Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 1999;107(7):447-52. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1212136.


Pregnancy is characterized by peripheral insulin resistance, which is physiologically compensated by an increase in insulin secretion. Type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) have been associated with an inappropriate increase in insulin precursors, namely proinsulin. The aim of this study was to determine levels of proinsulin (PI), specific insulin (SI) and the proinsulin-to-specific insulin (PI/SI) ratio in consecutive pregnant women (n = 209) with normal glucose tolerance (NGT), as assessed by a 2h oral glucose tolerance test, and with mild gestational diabetes (GDM), in comparison to 32 healthy, non-pregnant women. Furthermore, we related these variables to surrogate markers of insulin resistance and insulin secretion. We found no significant differences in the levels of PI and the PI/ SI ratio between pregnant and non-pregnant women (PI: 5.0 +/- 3.6 vs. 4.8 +/- 3.5 pmol/L, p = NS), and between pregnant women with mild GDM and NGT (PI: 5.4 +/- 2.4 vs. 4.9 +/- 3.9 pmol/L, p = NS). SI was elevated in women with mild GDM (112.2 +/- 47.3 vs. 94.8 +/- 43.0 pmol/L in NGT, p=0.02). PI was related to fasting glucose (r = 0.17, p < 0.02), but not post-load glucose levels, and to fasting insulin [specific insulin: r = 0.67, p = 0.0001; total immunoreactive insulin (IRI): r = 0.69, p = 0.0001], as well as post-load insulin levels (IRI at 120 min: r = 0.18, p < 0.03). The PI/SI ratio showed no association with fasting or post-load glucose or insulin levels. Pregnant women presented with a metabolic pattern suggestive of enhanced insulin resistance, namely increased fasting and post-load insulin levels. In women with mild GDM, fasting and post-load hyperglycemia, as well as an additional increase in insulin resistance was found. Group differences weakened when accounting for differences in body weight. The data of the present study suggest that in normal pregnancy as well as mild GDM metabolic alterations including enhanced insulin resistance and hyperglycemia do not result in an increase in circulating levels of proinsulin, both in absolute terms and relative to levels of specific insulin, as indicated by the proinsulin-to-specific insulin ratio.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes, Gestational / blood
  • Diabetes, Gestational / pathology
  • Diabetes, Gestational / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Glucose / physiology
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Pregnancy / blood
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Proinsulin / blood*
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis


  • Insulin
  • Proinsulin
  • Glucose