Current insights and new perspectives on the roles of hyperglucagonemia in non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2013 Oct;15(5):522-30. doi: 10.1007/s11906-013-0383-y.


Type 2 diabetes is well recognized as a noninsulin-dependent diabetic disease. Clinical evidence indicates that the level of circulating insulin may be normal, subnormal, and even elevated in type 2 diabetic patients. Unlike type 1 diabetes, the key problem for type 2 diabetes is not due to the absolute deficiency of insulin secretion, but because the body is no longer sensitive to insulin. Thus, insulin resistance is increased and the sensitivity to insulin is reset, so increasing levels of insulin are required to maintain body glucose and metabolic homeostasis. How insulin resistance is increased and what factors contribute to its development in type 2 diabetes remain incompletely understood. Overemphasis of insulin deficiency alone may be too simplistic for us to understand how type 2 diabetes is developed and should be treated, since glucose metabolism and homeostasis are tightly controlled by both insulin and glucagon. Insulin acts as a YIN factor to lower blood glucose level by increasing cellular glucose uptake, whereas glucagon acts as a YANG factor to counter the action of insulin by increasing glucose production. Furthermore, other humoral factors other than insulin and glucagon may also directly or indirectly contribute to increased insulin resistance and the development of hyperglycemia. The purpose of this article is to briefly review recently published animal and human studies in this field, and provide new insights and perspectives on recent debates as to whether hyperglucagonemia and/or glucagon receptors should be targeted to treat insulin resistance and target organ injury in type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Glucagon / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Insulin / metabolism


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Glucagon