We examined changes in high- and low-Km glucose phos-phorylating activity in pancreatic islet extracts from the prediabetic Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rat between 5–6 weeks and 12 weeks of age (after the onset of diabetes). Comparisons were made between the activity observed in the ZDF rat and that seen in the ZDF lean control (ZLC) rat and the obese nondiabetic Zucker fatty (ZF) rat. At 5–6 weeks of age, insulin resistant ZDF and ZF rats were hyperinsulinemic, compared with the ZLC rat, but had normal plasma glucose levels. Kinetic parameters (Vmax and Km for glucose) of hex-okinase (HK) and Km of glucokinase (GCK) did not differ between groups. Islet GCK activity for ZDF and ZF rats was 1.7-fold greater than in ZLC rats (P < 0.02 and P < 0.001, respectively). By 12 weeks of age, hyper-secretion of insulin at 5.0 mmol/1 glucose was observed in perifused islets from both obese groups relative to the ZLC rat. Islets from ZDF rats failed to increase insulin secretion in response to increased glucose concentration. Group differences in the kinetic parameters for GCK or in the Km values for HK were not significant. Islet HK activity for ZDF and ZF rats was 1.9-fold (P < 0.05) and 1.7-fold (P < 0.05) greater, respectively, than for ZLC rats. Compared with the 5- to 6-week-old animals, HK activity increased 3.1-fold (P < 0.001), 2.5-fold (P < 0.002), and 2.0-fold (P < 0.05) for ZDF, ZF, and ZLC rats, respectively. Differences in GCK activity between 5- to 6- and 12-week-old rats were not significant for any of the groups. We conclude: 1) increased islet glucose phosphorylating activity is present in insulin resistant and hyperinsulinemic ZF and ZDF rats, relative to the ZLC rat; 2) at 12 weeks of age, hyperinsulinemic ZDF and ZF rats demonstrated significant increases in HK activity, compared with lean controls; and 3) deficiency in GCK activity does not explain failure of diabetic ZDF islets to respond to glucose, since differences between diabetic ZDF and non-diabetic ZF rats were not statistically significant. Increases in pancreatic islet phosphorylating activity seem to be important in maintaining basal hyperinsulinemia in insulin-resistant animals, but do not appear to play a role in the progression to glucose intolerance and diabetes.

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