Insulin, proinsulin, glucagon and gastrin in pancreatic tumors and in plasma of patients with organic hyperinsulinism

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1977 Apr;44(4):681-94. doi: 10.1210/jcem-44-4-681.


Insulin, proinsulin, glucagon and gastrin were determined in extracts of tumors of 27 patients with pancreatic islet cell neoplasia of pancreas, in one patient with nesidioblastosis, in extracts of uninvolved portions of the pancreas in 11 of the tumor patients and of 15 control pancreases. Mean insulin concentration in solitary adenomas and in adenomas of patients with adenomatosis was higher than in control pancreases; however, in all but 1 patient the insulin concentration in neoplastic islet tissue was lower than in islet tissue of control pancreas, assuming islet volume is 1% of pancreas. The percentage of proinsulin was elevated in 52% of tumors. Adenoma insulin content correlated with increments of plasma insulin after tolbutamide administration. Insulin and proinsulin concentrations in pancreas uninvolved by tumor were not suppressed. Fasting plasma glucagon was elevated in patients with islet cell adenomatosis and in patients with islet cell carcinoma some of whom had multiple endocrine adenomatosis. The mean concentration of glucagon in tumors was lower than in control pancreases. Elevated concentration of gastrin was found in some adenomas. The data indicate: 1) insulin-secreting islet cell tumors have decreased storage capacity for insulin, 2) elevated concentration of proinsulin in tumors may be due to decreased capacity to store insulin and in some to decreased conversion of proinsulin to insulin as well, 3) tolbutamide stimulates the exaggerated release of a relatively constant fraction of insulin stored in adenomas. 4) solitary adenomas may contain excess amounts of pancreatic hormones in addition to insulin, 5) elevated plasma glucagon in patients with organic hyperinsulinism may indicate malignancy, microadenomatosis or multiple endocrine adenoma syndrome, and 6) chronic hyperinsulinism and hypoglycemia due to adenoma do not suppress insulin and proinsulin content of uninvolved pancreas.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / metabolism*
  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / metabolism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gastrins / metabolism*
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism / metabolism*
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia / metabolism
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Hormones / metabolism*
  • Proinsulin / metabolism
  • Tolbutamide


  • Gastrins
  • Insulin
  • Pancreatic Hormones
  • Glucagon
  • Proinsulin
  • Tolbutamide