Opioid receptor blockade improves hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure in type 1 diabetes mellitus

Septimiu Vele, Sofiya Milman, Harry Shamoon, Ilan Gabriely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Context: Recurrent hypoglycemia induces hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure (HAAF), characterized by deterioration in counterregulatory responses. Endogenous opioidsmaymediate the development of HAAF, and blockade of opioid receptors with naloxone prevented HAAF in nondiabetic subjects. Objective: We hypothesized that opioid receptor blockade with naloxone during antecedent hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) would prevent the development of HAAF. Design, Setting, Participants, and Interventions: Eight subjects with T1DM (three women, aged 34 ± 7.4 yr, hemoglobin A1c 7.3 ± 1.1%) were studied on 2 consecutive days on three separate occasions. Day 1 consisted of: 1) two 90-min hypoglycemic clamps (60 mg/dl, N-); 2) two 90-min hypoglycemic clamps (60 mg/dl) with concomitant naloxone infusion (N+); or 3) two 90-min euglycemic clamps (90 mg/dl) with concomitant naloxone infusion (control). Day 2 consisted of hyperinsulinemic stepped hypoglycemic clamps (90, 80, 70, and 60 mg/dl plasma glucose steps). Main Outcome Measures: Day 2 hypoglycemia counterregulatory hormonal response and glucose turnover [(3- 3H)-glucose] as indicators of recovery from hypoglycemia. Results: Antecedent hypoglycemia in N- group resulted in a markedly decreased epinephrine response and a lower rate of endogenous glucose production (EGP) during subsequent hypoglycemia compared with control (75 ± 17 vs. 187 ± 21 pg/ml, P < 0.05 and 0.8 ± 0.1 vs. 1.4 ± 0.2 mg/kg · min, P<0.05, respectively). In contrast, in the N+ studies, plasma epinephrine was 164±18 pg/ml and EGP was 1.3±0.2 mg/kg · min during subsequent hypoglycemia, both levels similar to those seen in control studies (P = NS vs. control). Plasma glucagon did not increase with hypoglycemia. Conclusions: Blockade of endogenous opioids with naloxone during antecedent hypoglycemia improves HAAF in patients with T1DM by ameliorating the epinephrine response and restoring EGP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3424-3431
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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