The aim of the present study was to examine the relationships among β-cell function, proinsulin conversion to insulin, and age. We studied insulin and proinsulin secretion in nondiabetic subjects during an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) using published indexes of β-cell function (n = 379, age 16–68 years) and a modified hyperglycemic clamp (10 mmol/l, additional glucagon-like peptide [GLP-1] infusion, final arginine bolus; n = 50, age 19–68 years). Proinsulin conversion to insulin was assessed using proinsulin/insulin (PI/I) ratios immediately after an acute stimulus (OGTT, 30 min; hyperglycemic clamp, 2.5–5.0 min after glucose and arginine). There was a negative correlation between age and β-cell function (adjusted for insulin sensitivity, BMI, and fasting glucose) in the OGTT (r = −0.21, P < 0.001) and first phase of the hyperglycemic clamp (r = −0.30, P = 0.03), but not second phase (r = −0.08, P = 0.6) or arginine-induced insulin secretion (r = 0.06, P = 0.7). There was a positive correlation between age and the PI/I ratio in the OGTT (r = 0.24, P < 0.001). Analogously, there was also a positive correlation between age and the PI/I ratio during first phase (r = 0.37, P = 0.009) and arginine stimulation (r = 0.33, P = 0.01) of the hyperglycemic clamp. First-phase insulin secretion of the hyperglycemic clamp was inversely correlated with the PI/I ratio (r = −0.60, P < 0.001). Interestingly, adjusting first-phase secretion rate for the PI/I ratio abolished the linear relationship with age (r = −0.06, P = 0.7). In conclusion, aging is associated with deteriorating β-cell function and deteriorating proinsulin conversion to insulin. The age effect on insulin secretion appears to be attributable at least in part to an impairment of proinsulin conversion to insulin.
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Accepted for publication 12 June 2001.
AUCI/AUCG, ratio of the insulin over glucose area under the curve; GLP-1, glucagon-like peptide; HOMA, homeostatic model assessment; IGT, impaired glucose tolerant; ISR, insulin secretion rate; IVGTT, intravenous glucose tolerance test; NGT, normal glucose tolerant; OGTT, oral glucose tolerance test; PI/I, proportion of proinsulin to insulin.
The symposium and the publication of this article have been made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Servier, Paris.