Intracellular glucose and lipid metabolism was studied in 12 identical twin pairs discordant for non-insulin-dependent (Type 2) diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and 13 control subjects without family history of diabetes during low (baseline) and high plasma insulin concentrations, using the hyperinsulinaemic clamp technique combined with indirect calorimetry, tritiated water glycolytic flux rates and biopsy skeletal muscle glycogen synthase activity determinations. Baseline and insulin stimulated rates of lipid oxidation were elevated--and glucose oxidation decreased--in the NIDDM twins compared with the non-diabetic co-twins and controls (all p < 0.05). Baseline and insulin stimulated rates of glucose and lipid oxidation were similar in non-diabetic twins and controls. Exogenous glycolytic flux was decreased in NIDDM twins compared with both their non-diabetic co-twins and controls during clamp insulin measurements (p < 0.02), but similar in all study groups during baseline measurements. Insulin stimulated glucose disposal, exogenous glucose storage (glucose disposal-exogenous glycolytic flux) and skeletal muscle glycogen synthase activity were all significantly decreased in NIDDM twins compared with both their non-diabetic co-twins and controls. Furthermore, glucose disposal and glucose storage were decreased in the non-diabetic twins (n = 12) compared with controls (p < 0.05 both). However, insulin stimulated fractional skeletal muscle glycogen synthase activity was not significantly decreased in non-diabetic twins compared with controls.
In conclusion: (1) the glucose fatty acid cycle plays a major role in the secondary--but not the primary--abnormalities of glucose metabolism in NIDDM; (2) insulin resistance in non-diabetic identical co-twins of NIDDM patients is restricted exclusively to the pathway of exogenous glucose storage; (3) however, the decreased glucose storage is not explained solely by an impairment of insulin stimulated skeletal muscle glycogen synthase activity; and finally (4) the impairment of skeletal muscle glycogen synthase activity in NIDDM has an apparent non-genetic component and can be escaped (or postponed) in individuals (twins) with a 100% genetic predisposition to NIDDM.