Quantification of gluconeogenesis in cirrhosis: response to glucagon

Gastroenterology. 1998 Dec;115(6):1530-40. doi: 10.1016/s0016-5085(98)70033-2.


Background & aims: Accelerated starvation and early recruitment of alternate fuels in cirrhosis have been attributed to reduced availability of hepatic glycogen. The aim of this study was to measure gluconeogenesis (as a marker of protein oxidation) in relation to total glucose production and glucagon-stimulated glycogenolysis.

Methods: Glucose and urea production, gluconeogenesis, and glycogenolysis were calculated using stable isotope methods before and during glucagon infusion (3 ng. kg-1. min-1) in 5 cirrhotic patients and 5 matched controls before and after glycogen repletion.

Results: In the basal state, cirrhotic patients had a normal rate of glucose production, but the contribution of gluconeogenesis was increased (74.3% +/- 4.1% vs. 55. 6% +/- 12.1%; P < 0.005). Glycogen repletion normalized the rate of gluconeogenesis. The glycemic response to glucagon (3 ng. kg-1. min-1) was blunted in cirrhotic patients because of a lower rate of glycogenolysis (0.63 +/- 0.23 vs. 1.22 +/- 0.23 mg. kg-1. min-1; P < 0.01) and was not affected by glycogen repletion. Despite increased gluconeogenesis, the simultaneously measured rate of urea synthesis was lower in cirrhotic patients (3.11 +/- 1.02 vs. 5.0 +/- 1.0 mg/kg; P < 0.05).

Conclusions: These data show that in cirrhosis, glucose production is sustained by an increased rate of gluconeogenesis. The hepatic resistance to glucagon action is not caused by reduced glycogen stores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Glucagon / metabolism*
  • Gluconeogenesis*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Urea / metabolism


  • Urea
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose