The aim of this study was to ascertain whether the presence of hypertension conveys a more severe degree of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus and, if so, which biochemical pathways are involved. We quantitated the rates of total glucose disposal, glycogen synthesis (GS), glycolysis, glucose oxidation, endogenous glucose production, and LOX in the basal state and during a 4-h euglycemic ( approximately 5 mM) hyperinsulinemic ( approximately 300 pM) clamp carried out in combination with a dual-tracer infusion ([(3)H]-3- and [(14)C]-U-D-glucose) and indirect calorimetry in 42 nonobese noninsulin-treated type 2 diabetic subjects (22 hypertensive and 20 normotensive) and 23 nonobese nondiabetic subjects (9 without and 14 with essential hypertension). Compared with normotensive controls, both groups of diabetic subjects were markedly insulin resistant. In the basal state, all glucose fluxes were similar in diabetic subjects with or without hypertension. During insulin infusion, total glucose disposal was significantly reduced in hypertensive diabetic subjects, compared with their normotensive counterparts (18.7 +/- 1.0 vs. 28.6 +/- 3.0 micromol/min.kg lean body mass; P < 0.01). This difference was almost entirely explained by a marked reduction in GS (4.5 +/- 2.0 vs. 12.5 +/- 3.3 micromol/min.kg lean body mass; P < 0.01). Endogenous glucose production was not different in the two diabetic groups during insulin infusion and was significantly higher than in normotensive controls. Lipid oxidation was less suppressed by hyperinsulinemia in hypertensive than in normotensive diabetic subjects (1.46 +/- 0.1 vs. 0.91 +/- 0.1 micromol/min.kg lean body mass; P < 0.01). Glucose fluxes were not significantly different in nondiabetic subjects with essential hypertension and in normotensive diabetic individuals. These results indicate that hypertension markedly aggravates insulin resistance featuring type 2 diabetes mellitus. The molecular defects underlying this phenomenon involve primarily GS.