Glucagon and catecholamine secretion during hypoglycemia in normal and diabetic man

James W. Benson, David G. Johnson, Jerry P. Palmer, Phillip L. Werner, John W. Ensinck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


To examine the role of catecholamines in glucopenia-induced glucagon secretion, urinary epinephrine and norepinephrine and plasma immunoreactive glucagon (IRG) were measured during insulin-induced hypoglycemia in normal and insulin-dependent diabetic man. Despite equivalent levels of hypoglycemia the mean plasma IRG increment in diabetics was only 15% of normals. The increases in epinephrine and norepinephrine were comparable in diabetics and normals; thus, the blunted response in plasma IRG to the stimulus of low blood sugar in diabetics cannot be explained by a generalized defect in catecholamine secretion. It is suggested that an alpha-cell glucoreceptor defect may account for the abnormal response to glucopenia in diabetics. To evaluate the possibility that impaired sensitivity to circulating catecholamines could explain the alpha cell dysfunction in diabetics, exogenous epinephrine was infused in normals and insulindependent diabetics. Elevated plasma IRG during epinephrine infusion was observed in only 50% of normals. The diabetics were hyperresponsive; mean increment in plasma IRG 3 times that of normals. The data demonstrate enhanced rather than impaired sensitivity to catecholamines in diabetes mellitus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-464
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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