Contribution of Insulin Resistance to Catabolic Effect of Prednisone on Leucine Metabolism in Humans

  1. Morey W Haymond
  1. Department of Pediatrics, Endocrine Research Unit, Mayo Clinic and Foundation Rochester, Minnesota
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to M.W. Haymond, MD, Endocrine Research Unit, 5-164 West Joseph, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905.


To determine the role insulin resistance may play in the catabolic effect of high-dose prednisone therapy, healthy volunteers were studied on four occasions with the hormone-clamp technique at two insulin infusion rates. Subjects were studied after 5 days of prednisone (60 mg/day) or no steroid treatment and were infused with somatostatin, glucagon, growth hormone, [3H]glucose, [14C]leucine, and insulin (0.1 or 0.2 mil · kg1 · min1). At each rate of insulin infusion, the rate of leucine oxidation was increased (P < .001) after steroid treatment. Leucine flux, an indicator of whole-body proteolysis, was similar in the presence or absence of steroid treatment (2.26 ± 0.08 vs. 2.13 ± 0.04 μmol · kg1 · min1 respectively) at the lower rate of insulin infusion but was higher during steroid treatment (2.18 ± 0.06 vs. 1.84 ± 0.13 μmol · kg1 · min1) at the 0.2-mU · kg1 · min1 insulin infusion. Steroid pretreatment had no significant effect on the nonoxidative rates of leucine disappearance. These data provide strong evidence that the protein wasting associated with glucocorticosteroid therapy is in part the result of steroid-induced resistance to the antiproteolytic effect of insulin and an increase in the oxidation (and thus wasting) of one essential amino acid, leucine.

  • Received December 15, 1988.
  • Revision received June 1, 1989.
  • Accepted June 1, 1989.
| Table of Contents