Rats with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) induced by neonatal injection of streptozocin are known to have a deficient insulin response to glucose. To evaluate to what extent this glucose insensitivity can be attributed to a pertubation of the islet glucose metabolism, we estimated the rates of glucose phosphorylation, glucose utilization, oxygen consumption, and glucose oxidation in islets isolated from normal and NIDDM rats and compared these values with rates of islet insulin biosynthesis and release in vitro. The data confirm that islets from rats with NIDDM display a deficient response to glucose of both insulin biosynthesis and release that is still present after an overnight culture of the islets at 5.5 mM glucose. Furthermore, they show that islets of these rats have 1) normal low- and high-Km glucose-phosphorylating activities and no major alteration of the glucose utilization rate, 2) decreased insulin release in response to glyceraldehyde, 3) decreased rates of basal respiration and glucose oxidation and a markedly reduced stimulation by glucose of both islet oxygen consumption and glucose oxidation, and 4) decreased glucose-stimulated net 45Ca uptake. We conclude that the relative unresponsiveness to glucose of islets from NIDDM rats is associated with, and perhaps due to, a deficient islet glucose metabolism. This defect is not due to gross alterations in the glycolytic pathway but probably reflects alteration in the islet mitochondria function.

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