Exaggerated glucagon responses to hypoglycemia in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

Susan Sam, Priyathama Vellanki, Sudha K. Yalamanchi, Richard N. Bergman, Andrea Dunaif

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Context Premenopausal women have blunted counter-regulatory hormone responses (CRR) to hypoglycemia compared to men. Postmenopausal women have CRR similar to men; the premenopausal pattern can be restored by estrogen. However, glucagon and pancreatic polypeptide (PP) responses remain lower in postmenopausal women than in men. Since hyperandrogenemia contributes to the metabolic phenotype of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), we hypothesize that CRR to hypoglycemia especially of glucagon and PP is exaggerated in premenopausal women with PCOS compared to premenopausal control women. Study Subjects and Methods Ten obese women with PCOS and 9 control women of similar ethnicity, age and BMI underwent determination of CRR in response to hypoglycemia during 180-min 60 mU/m2/min insulin dose hypoglycemic clamp with isotopic assessment of endogenous glucose production (EGP). To assess CRR to hypoglycemia, glucagon, cortisol, growth hormone (GH), epinephrine, norepinephrine, PP, lactate, free fatty acid (FFA), β-hydroxybutyrate, and glycerol levels were sampled at 15-min intervals throughout the clamp. Main Findings Incremental glucagon levels were ~ 3-fold higher during hypoglycemia (P = 0.03) in PCOS. Postabsorptive, steady-state and incremental GH, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, PP, FFA, glycerol and β-hydroxybutyrate did not differ. At target glucose levels of ~ 52 mg/dL, insulin mediated glucose disposal (IMGD) was decreased by ~ 40% (P = 0.02) in PCOS, compared to control women, despite ~ 20% higher steady-state insulin levels (P = 0.03). Neither postabsorptive nor steady-state EGP differed. However, postabsorptive lactate levels were ~ 50% higher (P = 0.02). PCOS status (P = 0.04) and IMGD (P = 0.02) predicted the differential glucagon response to hypoglycemia in separate regression models, however, neither parameter remained an independent predictor in a combined model. Principal Conclusions Glucagon responses were increased in PCOS, whereas other CRR did not differ. Women with PCOS were insulin resistant under hypoglycemic conditions and higher postabsorptive lactate levels in PCOS were consistent with this finding. Insulin resistance may have contributed to exaggerated glucagon response to hypoglycemia in PCOS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-131
Number of pages7
JournalMetabolism: Clinical and Experimental
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Counter-regulatory hormones
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome


Dive into the research topics of 'Exaggerated glucagon responses to hypoglycemia in women with polycystic ovary syndrome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this