The genetic basis of type 2 diabetes mellitus: impaired insulin secretion versus impaired insulin sensitivity

Endocr Rev. 1998 Aug;19(4):491-503. doi: 10.1210/edrv.19.4.0338.


Despite the fact that it is the prevalent view that insulin resistance is the main genetic factor predisposing to development of type 2 diabetes, review of several lines of evidence in the literature indicates a lack of overwhelming support for this concept. In fact, the literature better supports the case of impaired insulin secretion being the initial and main genetic factor predisposing to type 2 diabetes, especially 1) the studies in people at high risk to subsequently develop type 2 diabetes (discordant monozygotic twins and women with previous gestational diabetes), 2) the studies demonstrating compete alleviation of insulin resistance with weight loss, and 3) the studies finding that people with type 2 diabetes or IGT can have impaired insulin secretion and no insulin resistance compared with well matched NGT subjects. The fact that insulin resistance may be largely an acquired problem in no way lessens its importance in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. Life style changes (exercise, weight reduction) and pharmacological agents (e.g., biguanides and thiazolidendiones) that reduce insulin resistance or increase insulin sensitivity clearly have major beneficial effects (122, 144-146, 153-155).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Diabetes, Gestational
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies


  • Insulin