To assess further the role of insulin in the abnormal alpha-cell dysfunction found in human diabetes mellitus, the effects of acute insulin withdrawal and administration on plasma glucagon responses to intravenous arginine were studied in eight insulin-dependent diabetic subjects. Arginine infusions (30 gm. over 30 minutes) were performed during and at one and four hours after discontinuation of a 14-hour insulin infusion (1.5 U. per hour), which had rendered the subjects euglycemic, and on another occasion before and one and four hours into a five-hour infusion of insulin (1.5 U. per hour). During the last hour of the 14-hour infusion, glucagon responses to arginine (area under the curve, nanograms per milliliter per minute) were similar to those found in normal subjects (10.3 ± 0.8 vs. 9.0 ± 0.8, respectively). After discontinuation of the insulin infusions, glucagon responses increased progressively (p < 0.01) to values (16.8 ± 1.2) that exceeded those of normal subjects by four hours (p < 0.01). These were similar to results found in the same subjects studied when their diabetes was in < optimal control (14.9 ± 1.3). Infusion of insulin under these conditions progressively decreased glucagon responses to arginine to values (9.6 ± 0.8; p < 0.01) that, at four hours, were similar to those of normal subjects and to values found at the end of the 14-hour infusion of insulin in the same diabetic individuals.
These results demonstrate a rapid effect of insulin on glucagon responses to arginine and suggest that the abnormal responses seen in diabetes mellitus are the immediate result of insulin deficiency. Since abnormal glucagon responses to glucose in diabetes are not as readily corrected by insulin, the mechanisms underlying the abnormal responses to these two stimuli may differ.