Several studies have shown that humoral markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction are predictive of macrovascular events, and correlated with indirect measures of adiposity and insulin action, thus providing a possible link between obesity, insulin resistance and atherosclerosis. We examined the relationship between humoral markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction and direct measures of adiposity and insulin action in Pima Indians, a population with a very high prevalence of obesity and insulin resistance, but a relatively low propensity for atherosclerotic disease. Fasting plasma concentrations of the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein (CRP), secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1) and of the endothelial markers E-selectin and von Willebrand factor (vWF) were measured in 32 non-diabetic Pima Indians (18 M/14 F, age 27+/-1 years) in whom percent body fat and insulin-stimulated glucose disposal (M) were assessed by DEXA and a hyperinsulinemic clamp, respectively. CRP, sPLA2, and sICAM-1 were all positively correlated with percent body fat (r=0.71, 0.57, and 0.51, all P<0.01). E-selectin and vWF were not correlated with percent body fat, but were negatively correlated with M (r= -0.65 and -0.46, both P<0.001) and positively correlated with CRP (r=0.46, and 0.33, both P<0.05). These findings indicate that humoral markers of inflammation increase with increasing adiposity in Pima Indians whereas humoral markers of endothelial dysfunction increase primarily in proportion to the degree of insulin resistance and inflammation. Thus, obesity and insulin resistance appear to be associated with low-grade inflammation and endothelial dysfunction, respectively, even in an obesity- and diabetes-prone population with relatively low propensity for atherosclerosis.