Insulin propeptides in conditions associated with insulin resistance in humans and their relevance to insulin measurements

Metabolism. 1994 Apr;43(4):446-9. doi: 10.1016/0026-0495(94)90074-4.


Routine insulin assays measure not only biologically active insulin but also the relatively inactive propeptides, proinsulin and desdipeptide proinsulin. Such measurements may be misleading if insulin propeptide levels are increased, as has been reported in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Inferences regarding insulin resistance, based on hyperinsulinemia, could thus be invalidated where routine insulin assays have been used. We have measured plasma insulin levels using a routine assay, together with measurements of the major circulating insulin propeptides, intact proinsulin and des 31,32proinsulin, in various clinical situations associated with apparently increased insulin levels and insulin resistance. Major increases of insulin propeptide levels relative to insulin levels were not seen in obese subjects or in patients taking oral contraceptives or danazol, or in obese subjects compared with non-obese controls. Although the insulinemic responses observed with routine radioimmunoassay in these situations associated with insulin resistance are not confounded by major changes in the proportion of circulating insulin propeptides, further studies will be necessary to validate investigations in other insulin-resistant states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proinsulin / blood*
  • Protein Precursors / blood*


  • Insulin
  • Protein Precursors
  • proinsulin, des(31,32)-
  • Proinsulin
  • Glucose