Objective: To determine the role of glucagon action in the metabolic phenotype of untreated insulin deficiency.
Research design and methods: We compared pertinent clinical and metabolic parameters in glucagon receptor-null (Gcgr(-/-)) mice and wild-type (Gcgr(+/+)) controls after equivalent destruction of β-cells. We used a double dose of streptozotocin to maximize β-cell destruction.
Results: Gcgr(+/+) mice became hyperglycemic (>500 mg/dL), hyperketonemic, polyuric, and cachectic and had to be killed after 6 weeks. Despite comparable β-cell destruction in Gcgr(-/-) mice, none of the foregoing clinical or laboratory manifestations of diabetes appeared. There was marked α-cell hyperplasia and hyperglucagonemia (~1,200 pg/mL), but hepatic phosphorylated cAMP response element binding protein and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase mRNA were profoundly reduced compared with Gcgr(+/+) mice with diabetes--evidence that glucagon action had been effectively blocked. Fasting glucose levels and oral and intraperitoneal glucose tolerance tests were normal. Both fasting and nonfasting free fatty acid levels and nonfasting β-hydroxy butyrate levels were lower.
Conclusions: We conclude that blocking glucagon action prevents the deadly metabolic and clinical derangements of type 1 diabetic mice.