High serum concentrations of soluble adhesion molecules are present in diabetics, but whether similar levels are present in patients with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) is unclear. We measured serum concentrations of soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1), vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1), and sE-selectin in 128 nondiabetic Japanese subjects. The concentrations of sICAM-1, sVCAM-1, and sE-selectin in IGT patients (n=47) were not different from those in subjects with normal glucose tolerance (NGT; n=81). IGT patients were subdivided into two groups by the results of 75 g OGTT, those with low- (hypoinsulinemia; n=23) or high-insulin (hyperinsulinemia; n=24). The levels of sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1 were not different among NGT and IGT with high-insulin or with low-insulin. However, sE-selectin concentrations were significantly higher in IGT patients with high-insulin than in NGT and IGT with low-insulin (61.1+/-3.4, 47.1+/-1.8 and 43.7+/-3.9 ng/ml, respectively, P<0.001). Adjustment for age and gender did not influence the results. Serum sE-selectin concentrations correlated significantly with the area under the curve of insulin (AUC(insulin)), AUC(glucose), diastolic blood pressure, and triglyceride levels (r=0.35, 0.26, 0.18 and 0.21, respectively), and negatively with HDL-cholesterol levels (r=-0.20). Multiple regression analysis showed that AUC(insulin) was the only independent factor that correlated with sE-selectin levels (P<0.001). Our results indicate that hyperinsulinemia/insulin resistance may be responsible for the elevation of sE-selectin levels.