Insulin may stimulate its own insulin secretion and is a potent growth factor for the pancreatic β-cell. Complications of pregnancy, such as diabetes and intrauterine growth restriction, are associated with changes in fetal insulin concentrations, secretion, and β-cell mass. However, glucose concentrations are also abnormal in these conditions. The direct effect of chronic fetal hyperinsulinemia with euglycemia on fetal insulin secretion and β-cell mass has not been tested. We hypothesized that chronic fetal hyperinsulinemia with euglycemia would increase glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) and β-cell mass in the ovine fetus. Singleton ovine fetuses were infused with iv insulin to produce high physiological insulin concentrations, or saline for 7-10 days. The hyperinsulinemic animals also received a direct glucose infusion to maintain euglycemia. GSIS, measured at 133±1 days of gestation, was significantly attenuated in the hyperinsulinemic fetuses (P < .05). There was no change in β-cell mass. The hyperinsulinemic fetuses also had decreased oxygen (P < .05) and higher norepinephrine (1160 ± 438 vs 522 ± 106 pg/mL; P < .005). Acute pharmacologic adrenergic blockade restored GSIS in the hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic fetuses, demonstrating that increased adrenergic signaling mediates decreased GSIS in these fetuses.
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