Effect of insulin and plasma amino acid concentration on leucine metabolism in cirrhosis

Alexander S. Petrides, Livio Luzi, Adrian Reuben, Caroline Riely, Ralph A. Defronzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Clinically stable patients with cirrhosis demonstrate insulin resistance with regard to glucose metabolism. However, much less is known about the two major factors, insulin and plasma amino acid concentration, that regulate protein metabolism in cirrhotic patients. To examine this question, we performed paired euglycemic insulin clamp studies in combination with 14Cleucine and indirect calorimetry. In the first study insulin alone was infused, and the plasma amino acid concentration was allowed to decline, During the second study a balanced amino acid solution was infused with insulin to increase the total plasma amino acid concentration approximately twofold. Insulinmediated glucose disposal (4.68 vs. 6.45 mg/kg‐min, p < 0.01) was significantly impaired by 30% in cirrhotic patients during both insulin clamp studies. In the postabsorptive state, cirrhotic patients manifested low plasma leucine (76 vs. 102 μmol/L) and α‐ketoisocaproate (19 vs. 30 μmol/L) concentrations, but all parameters of leucine turnover were normal. When insulin alone was infused, the endogenous leucine flux (an index of protein degradation) declined similarly in cirrhotic patients (30.8 μmol/m2‐min) and control (26.9) subjects, and this was accompanied by a similar decrease in plasma leucine concentration (31% vs. 33%). The decline in circulating leucine concentration was accompanied by a parallel decline in leucine oxidation (5.1 vs. 4.6 μmol/m2‐min) and nonoxidative (28.9 vs. 26.0 μmol/m2‐min) leucine disposal, which were of similar magnitude in cirrhotic patients and control subjects, respectively. In both cirrhotic patients and control subjects, combined hyperinsulinemia/hyperaminoacidemia elicited a similar stimulation of nonoxidative leucine disposal (an index of protein synthesis) and leucine oxidation while causing a greater suppression of endogenous leucine flux than observed with insulin alone. Thus the suppressive effect of insulin on protein degradation and the stimulatory effect of insulin/amino acid infusion on protein synthesis are not impaired in cirrhotic patients, demonstrating a clear‐cut dissociation between the effects of insulin on protein and glucose metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-441
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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