Direct measurement of pulsatile insulin secretion from the portal vein in human subjects

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Dec;85(12):4491-9. doi: 10.1210/jcem.85.12.7043.


Insulin is secreted in a high frequency pulsatile manner. These pulses are delivered directly into the portal vein and then undergo extraction and dilution before delivery into the systemic circulation. The reported frequency of these insulin pulses estimated in peripheral blood varies from an interpulse interval of 4-20 min. We postulated that this discrepancy is due to the attenuation of the pulse signal in the systemic circulation vs. the portal circulation. In the present study we measured pulsatile insulin release directly in the portal circulation of human subjects who had indwelling transjugular intrahepatic portasystemic stent shunts (TIPSS) to decompress portal hypertension. We quantitated pulsatile insulin secretion in both the overnight fasted state (fasting) and during a hyperglycemic clamp (8 mmol/L). Direct portal vein sampling established that pulsatile insulin secretion in humans has an interval (periodicity) of approximately 5 min. The amplitude (and mass) of the insulin concentration oscillations observed in the portal vein was approximately 5-fold greater than that observed in the arterialized vein and was similar to that observed in the dog. Increased insulin release during hyperglycemia was achieved through amplification of the insulin pulse mass. In conclusion, direct portal vein sampling in humans revealed that the interpulse interval of insulin pulses in humans is about 5 min, and this frequency is also observed when sampling from the systemic circulation using a highly specific insulin assay and 1-min sampling, but is about 4-fold greater than the frequency observed at this site using single site RIAs. We confirm that enhanced insulin release in response to hyperglycemia is achieved by amplification of these high frequency pulses.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • C-Peptide / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / blood
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Portal Pressure / physiology
  • Portal Vein / physiology*
  • Portasystemic Shunt, Transjugular Intrahepatic


  • Blood Glucose
  • C-Peptide
  • Insulin