, Volume 47, Issue 9, pp 1602-1610
Date: 02 Sep 2004

Metabolic adaptations to chronic glucose infusion in rats



Several studies have employed the chronic glucose infusion protocol to quantify the metabolic adaptations associated with a prolonged glucose challenge. However, the limited number of indices and time points reported by these studies has generated an incomplete picture of this process. In this study we aimed to generate an integrative and dynamic picture of the physiological adaptations that occur during chronic glucose infusion.


Sprague–Dawley rats were infused with either 50% dextrose or saline (2 ml/h) for a period of between 0 and 6 days. Glucose, insulin and NEFA dynamics were determined from daily blood samples. Subsets of animals were killed daily for histological determination of beta cell mass, size and replication rates. The mathematical model of coupled beta cell mass, insulin and glucose (the βIG model) was used to estimate insulin sensitivity, beta cell function and net neogenesis from this data.


Glucose-infused rats displayed transient hyperglycaemia, persistent hyperinsulinaemia and unchanged NEFA levels. Insulin sensitivity decreased by approximately 80% during the first day of glucose infusion, but had returned to pre-infusion levels by Day 3. Beta cell function was four to six times higher than in control rats throughout the experiment. Beta cell mass doubled over the 6 days of glucose infusion due to three phases of adaptation: (i) neogenesis; (ii) hypertrophy and hyperplasia; and (iii) continued hyperplasia coupled to a second wave of neogenesis.


Contrary to the results reported for perfused pancreas and in vitro experiments, we found that chronic glucose infusion elevated beta cell function. The prediction of a second wave of beta cell neogenesis, coupled with our previous report of “focal areas” on Day 3, suggests the existence of delayed acinar-to-islet transdifferentiation.