Studies were performed to test the hypothesis that impaired insulin action occurs as an acquired phenomenon in the streptozocin (STZ)-treated, non-insulin-dependent (NIDDM) diabetic rat model. A number of methods were used to evaluate impaired carbohydrate tolerance in these animals. Plasma glucose and insulin levels were measured at 6 and 14 wk of age, and insulin glucose tolerance tests were performed at 4 and 5 wk of age (before overt hyperglycemia ensues), and at 8 and 14 wk of age (after the animals manifest overt diabetes). The STZ-treated rats had higher plasma glucose levels than those of control animals (P < 0.001) at 6 and 14 wk of age, while their plasma insulin values were decreased to levels 73% of the controls (1.7 ng/ ml versus 2.3 ng/ml, P < 0.04).

Glucose disappearance rates after high (0.35 U/kg) and low (0.175 U/kg) insulin challenge were reduced in the experimental diabetic animals at all ages with both insulin doses. The data suggest that these animals have an early and progressive acquired impairment in insulin action, most compatible with a defect in cellular biologic response to insulin. The possibility that this abnormality is secondary to insulin deficiency is raised.

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