Acute manipulations of insulin in vivo regulate the display of insulin receptors induced on activated T lymphocytes after presentation of alloantigen. This study explored the immunobiological consequences of regulation of insulin-receptor display by acute manipulations of insulin achieved during the hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp in healthy normal individuals and obese subjects. T lymphocytes were isolated at 0, 1, and 4 h of hyperinsulinemia from seven normal volunteers and seven obese individuals and studied for their capacity to 1) synthesize a complement of insulin receptors on cell membrane, 2) respond to alloantigen in the mixed-lymphocyte culture (an immunologic activity unrelated to manipulations in insulin concentrations in complete medium), and 3) respond to the lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxicity reaction (an immunologic activity known to be modulated by insulin). In the face of a reduction in receptor numbers to 25% of baseline in normal individuals, alloreactivity in the mixed-lymphocyte culture was not affected (95 ± 9% of time 0 after 4 h of hyperinsulinemia), whereas lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxicity fell from 14 ± 4 at time 0 to 2 ± 2% sp Cr release (P < 0.02). Hyperinsulinemia achieved by the clamp in seven obese subjects did not alter the synthesis of insulin receptors on cell membrane after presentation of alloantigen. In the absence of further reduction of insulin-receptor membrane display, neither the mixed-lymphocyte culture nor lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxicity reaction was affected. It is concluded that those immunologic activities of lymphocytes that can be modulated by insulin are affected by regulation of insulin-receptor display on activated lymphocytes. Therefore, receptor regulation is not effete but carries significant immunologic consequence. This study supports the hypothesis that insulin-directed immunologic activity is regulated at the site of receptor display rather than at the locus of regulation of the ligand itself.

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