Insulin resistance has been proposed as the metabolic basis of atherogenesis. This hypothesis is based on the concept of the “insulin resistance syndrome,” according to which insulin resistance is viewed as the primary abnormality that gives rise to dyslipidemia, essential hypertension, impaired glucose tolerance, and NIDDM. However, this hypothesis takes no account of the wellestablished and central role of vascular endothelium in the atherogenic process. Although endothelial injury is an early and prominent feature of atherogenesis, relatively little attention has been given to its metabolic consequences. In subjects with NIDDM, we have shown that endothelial dysfunction is associated with insulin resistance, raising the question of whether this relationship could be causal. In this article, we review the factors that are considered to be responsible for the development of endothelial dysfunction during atherogenesis, together with the metabolic consequences of endothelial dysfunction. While dysfunction of the endothelium in large and medium-sized arteries plays a central role in atherogenesis, we argue that dysfunction of peripheral vascular endothelium, at arteriolar and capillary level, plays the primary role in the pathogenesis of both insulin resistance and the associated features of the insulin resistance syndrome. We propose that the insulin resistance syndrome, together with many aspects of atherogenesis, can be viewed as the diverse consequences of endothelial dysfunction in different vascular beds. This new and testable hypothesis accounts for both the endothelial and metabolic abnormalities associated with atherogenesis.

This content is only available via PDF.