Previous studies in our laboratory showed that the platelet anti-aggregating effect exerted by insulin, mediated by a nitric oxide (NO)-induced increase of guanosine-3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cGMP), is lost in the insulin-resistant of obesity and obese NIDDM. It is not clear 1) whether the alterations observed in obese NIDDM patients are attributable to the obesity-related insulin resistance or to diabetes per se and 2) whether insulin-resistant states present a normal or a blunted response to NO. This study has been conducted to investigate 1) the platelet sensitivity to insulin in lean NIDDM and 2) the platelet sensitivity to an NO donor, glyceryl trinitrate (GTN), in obesity and in both lean and obese NIDDM.


We determined 1) ADP-induced platelet aggregation and platelet cGMP content in platelet-rich plasma (PRP) obtained from 11 lean NIDDM patients, after a 3-min incubation with insulin (0, 240, 480, 960, 1,920 pmol/l) and 2) ADP-induced platelet aggregation and platelet cGMP content in PRP obtained from 9 obese subjects, 11 lean and 8 obese NIDDM patients, and 18 control subjects, after a 3-min incubation with 0, 20, 40, and 100 μmol/l GTN.


Insulin dose-dependently decreased platelet aggregation in lean NIDDM patients (P = 0.0001): with 1,920 pmol/l of insulin, ADP ED50 was 141.5 ± 6.4% of basal values (P = 0.0001). Furthermore, insulin increased platelet cGMP (P = 0.0001) from 7.5 ± 0.2 to 21.1 ± 3.7 pmol/109 platelets. These results were similar to those previously described in healthy subjects. GTN reduced platelet aggregation in all the groups (P = 0.0001) at all the concentrations tested (P = 0.0001), but GTN IC50 values were much higher in insulin-resistant patients: 36.3 ± 5.0 μmol/l in healthy control subjects, 26.0 ± 6.0 μmol/l in lean NIDDM patients (NS vs. control subjects), 123.6 ± 24.0 μmol/l in obese subjects (P = 0.0001 vs. control subjects), and 110.1 ± 19.2 μmol/l in obese NIDDM patients (P = 0.0001 vs. control subjects). GTN dose-dependently increased platelet cGMP in all the groups (P = 0.0001 in control subjects, lean NIDDM patients, and obese subjects; P = 0.04 in obese NIDDM patients). Values reached by obese subjects and obese NIDDM patients, however, were lower than those reached by control subjects (with 100 μmol/l of GTN, P = 0.001 and P = 0.0001, respectively). In healthy control subjects and in obese subjects, the insulin:glucose ratio, used as an indirect measure of insulin sensitivity, was positively correlated to GTN IC50 (r = 0.530, P = 0.008), further suggesting that the sensitivity to NO is reduced in the presence of insulin resistance.


The insulin anti-aggregating effect is preserved in lean NIDDM; platelet sensitivity to GTN in preserved in lean NIDDM but is reduced in the insulin-resistant states of obesity and obese NIDDM. Resistance to nitrates, therefore, could be considered another feature of the insulin-resistance syndrome.

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