Objective: Because the hyperinsulinism/hyperammonemia (HI/HA) syndrome is associated with gain of function mutations in the leucine-stimulated insulin secretion pathway, we examined whether protein feeding or fasting was responsible for hypoglycemia in affected patients.
Study design: Patients with HI/HA (8 children and 6 adults) were studied. All had dominantly expressed mutations of glutamate dehydrogenase and plasma concentrations of ammonium that were 2 to 5 times normal. The responses to a 24-hour fasting test were determined in 7 patients. Responses to a 1.5 gm/kg oral protein tolerance test in 12 patients were compared with responses of 5 control subjects.
Results: The median age at onset of hypoglycemia in the 14 patients was 9 months; diagnosis was delayed beyond age 2 years in 6 patients, and 4 were not given a diagnosis until adulthood. Fasting tests revealed unequivocal evidence of hyperinsulinism in only 1 of 7 patients. Three did not develop hypoglycemia until 12 to 24 hours of fasting; however, all 7 demonstrated inappropriate glycemic responses to glucagon that were characteristic of hyperinsulinism. In response to oral protein, all 12 patients with HI/HA showed a fall in blood glucose compared with none of 5 control subjects. Insulin responses to protein loading were similar in the patients with HI/HA and control subjects.
Conclusion: The postprandial blood glucose response to a protein meal is more sensitive than prolonged fasting for detecting hypoglycemia in the HI/HA syndrome.