Effects of circulating insulin and glucose concentrations on skeletal muscle and adipose tissue lipolytic activity were investigated in 10 type 1 diabetes patients with no endogenous insulin secretion. Microdialysis measurements of interstitial glycerol and determination of fractional glycerol release were carried out during standardized combinations of relative hypoinsulinemia/moderate hyperglycemia (11 mmol/liter), hyperinsulinemia/ normoglycemia (5 mmol/liter), and hyperinsulinemia/moderate hyperglycemia, respectively. Local tissue blood flow rates were measured with the (133)Xe clearance technique. In response to the change from hypo- to hyperinsulinemia, the fractional release of glycerol decreased from 159.6 +/- 17.8 to 85.1 +/- 13.7 micromol/liter (P < 0.0001) in adipose tissue, whereas it remained unchanged in skeletal muscle (44.6 +/- 6.4 vs. 36.0 +/- 7.4 micromol/liter; not significant). When hyperinsulinemia was combined with hyperglycemia, fractional glycerol release was further reduced in adipose tissue (64.5 +/- 12.2 micromol/liter; P < 0.05), and in this situation it was also markedly decreased in skeletal muscle (18.1 +/- 4.8 micromol/liter; P < 0.0001). Skeletal muscle blood flow was unaltered over the respective study periods. Adipose tissue blood flow decreased by 50% in response to hyperinsulinemia (P < 0.0005), but no further change was seen when hyperinsulinemia was combined with hyperglycemia. It is concluded that in patients with type 1 diabetes, insulin does not exert an antilipolytic effect in skeletal muscle during normoglycemia. However, in response to combined hyperinsulinemia and hyperglycemia, the lipolytic activity in skeletal muscle is restrained in a similar way as in adipose tissue. This may be explained by a glucose-mediated potentiation of the antilipolytic effectiveness of insulin.