Background: Recurrent hypoglycemia blunts counter-regulatory responses to subsequent hypoglycemic episodes, a syndrome known as hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure (HAAF). Since adrenergic receptor blockade has been reported to prevent HAAF, we investigated whether the hypoglycemia-associated rise in plasma epinephrine contributes to pathophysiology and reported interindividual differences in susceptibility to HAAF. Methods: To assess the role of hypoglycemia-associated epinephrine responses in the susceptibility to HAAF, 24 adult nondiabetic subjects underwent two 2-hour hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemic clamp studies (nadir 54 mg/dL; 0-2 hours and 4-6 hours) on Day 1, followed by a third identical clamp on Day 2. We challenged an additional 7 subjects with two 2-hour infusions of epinephrine (0.03 μg/kg/min; 0-2 hours and 4-6 hours) vs saline on Day 1 followed by a 200-minute stepped hypoglycemic clamp (90, 80, 70, and 60 mg/dL) on Day 2. Results: Thirteen out of 24 subjects developed HAAF, defined by ≥20% reduction in average epinephrine levels during the final 30 minutes of the third compared with the first hypoglycemic episode (P < 0.001). Average epinephrine levels during the final 30 minutes of the first hypoglycemic episode were 2.3 times higher in subjects who developed HAAF compared with those who did not (P = 0.006). Compared to saline, epinephrine infusion on Day 1 reduced the epinephrine responses by 27% at the 70 and 60 mg/dL glucose steps combined (P = 0.04), with a parallel reduction in hypoglycemic symptoms (P = 0.03) on Day 2. Conclusions: Increases in plasma epinephrine reproduce key features of HAAF in nondiabetic subjects. Marked interindividual variability in epinephrine responses to hypoglycemia may explain an individual’s susceptibility to developing HAAF.
- Adrenergic receptors
- Counterregulatory responses
- Hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical