Effects of insulin on endothelial and contractile function of subcutaneous small resistance arteries of hypertensive and diabetic patients

Carolina De Ciuceis, Damiano Rizzoni, Enzo Porteri, Gianluca E M Boari, Francesca Zani, Marco Miclini, Guido A M Tiberio, Stefano M. Giulini, Silvia Paiardi, Nicola Rizzardi, Caterina Platto, Enrico Agabiti-Rosei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of insulin on the vasoconstriction induced by norepinephrine is at present controversial. We have previously demonstrated that high-concentration insulin may induce an increased reactivity to norepinephrine in mesenteric small resistance arteries of spontaneously hypertensive rats. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of low- and high-concentration insulin on the concentration-response curves to norepinephrine and acetylcholine in subcutaneous small resistance arteries of hypertensive and diabetic patients. Twelve normotensive subjects (NT), 11 patients with essential hypertension (EH), 8 patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), and 8 patients with both EH and NIDDM (EH + NIDDM) were included in the study. Subcutaneous small resistance arteries were dissected and mounted on an isometric myograph. Concentration-response curves to norepinephrine (from 10-8 to 10-5 mol/l) and acetylcholine (from 10-9 to 10-5 mol/l) were performed in the presence or absence of insulin 715 pmol/l (low concentration) and 715 nmol/l (high concentration). A significant reduction in the contractile response to norepinephrine was observed in NT after preincubation of the vessels with both low- and high-concentration insulin. No reduction was observed in NIDDM and EH + NIDDM, while a significant decrease was obtained in EH with high-concentration insulin. Moreover, a significant difference in reduction in contractile response at maximal concentration of norepinephrine in the presence of low-concentration insulin was observed in NT compared to EH (p = 0.03), NIDDM (p = 0.02), and EH + NIDDM (p = 0.05), whereas no difference was observed with high-concentration insulin. No differences in the concentration-response curves to acetylcholine before or after precontraction with either low- or high-concentration insulin were observed in any group. In conclusion, insulin at low (physiological) concentrations seems to induce a decreased reactivity to norepinephrine in subcutaneous small resistance arteries of NT, but this effect was lost in EH, NIDDM and EH + NIDDM. This effect does not seem to involve acetylcholine- stimulated nitric oxide release.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-520
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Vascular Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008


  • Acetylcholine
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Endothelium
  • Hypertension
  • Insulin
  • Microcirculation
  • Norepinephrine
  • Small vessels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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