OBJECTIVE To assess insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin expression within pancreatic islets of horses with and without insulin resistance.
ANIMALS 10 insulin-resistant horses and 13 insulin-sensitive horses.
PROCEDURES For each horse, food was withheld for at least 10 hours before a blood sample was collected for determination of serum insulin concentration. Horses with a serum insulin concentration < 20 μU/mL were assigned to the insulin-sensitive group, whereas horses with a serum insulin concentration > 20 μU/mL underwent a frequently sampled IV glucose tolerance test to determine sensitivity to insulin by minimal model analysis. Horses with a sensitivity to insulin < 1.0 × 10−4 L•min−1•mU−1 were assigned to the insulin-resistant group. All horses were euthanized with a barbiturate overdose, and pancreatic specimens were harvested and immunohistochemically stained for determination of insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin expression in pancreatic islets. Islet hormone expression was compared between insulin-resistant and insulin-sensitive horses.
RESULTS Cells expressing insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin made up approximately 62%, 12%, and 7%, respectively, of pancreatic islet cells in insulin-resistant horses and 64%, 18%, and 9%, respectively, of pancreatic islet cells in insulin-sensitive horses. Expression of insulin and somatostatin did not differ between insulin-resistant and insulin-sensitive horses, but the median percentage of glucagon-expressing cells in the islets of insulin-resistant horses was significantly less than that in insulin-sensitive horses.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results suggested that, in insulin-resistant horses, insulin secretion was not increased but glucagon production might be downregulated as a compensatory response to hyperinsulinemia.