GLP-1 stimulates insulin secretion, suppresses glucagon secretion, delays gastric emptying, and inhibits small bowel motility, all actions contributing to the anti-diabetogenic peptide effect. Endothelial dysfunction is strongly associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus and may cause the angiopathy typifying this debilitating disease. Therefore, interventions affecting both endothelial dysfunction and insulin resistance may prove useful in improving survival in type 2 diabetes patients. We investigated GLP-1's effect on endothelial function and insulin sensitivity (S(I)) in two groups: 1) 12 type 2 diabetes patients with stable coronary artery disease and 2) 10 healthy subjects with normal endothelial function and S(I). Subjects underwent infusion of recombinant GLP-1 or saline in a random crossover study. Endothelial function was measured by postischemic FMD of brachial artery, using ultrasonography. S(I) [in (10(-4) dl.kg(-1).min(-1))/(muU/ml)] was measured by hyperinsulinemic isoglycemic clamp technique. In type 2 diabetic subjects, GLP-1 infusion significantly increased relative changes in brachial artery diameter from baseline FMD(%) (3.1 +/- 0.6 vs. 6.6 +/- 1.0%, P < 0.05), with no significant effects on S(I) (4.5 +/- 0.8 vs. 5.2 +/- 0.9, P = NS). In healthy subjects, GLP-1 infusion affected neither FMD(%) (11.9 +/- 0.9 vs. 10.3 +/- 1.0%, P = NS) nor S(I) (14.8 +/- 1.8 vs. 11.6 +/- 2.0, P = NS). We conclude that GLP-1 improves endothelial dysfunction but not insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients with coronary heart disease. This beneficial vascular effect of GLP-1 adds yet another salutary property of the peptide useful in diabetes treatment.