Role of intact proinsulin in diagnosis and treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus

Pfutzner A, Pfutzner AH, Larbig M, Forst T 

Insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events. While this can be partly explained by an impairment of direct insulin action on the endothelial cell, an independent contribution can be assigned also to the secretory dysfunction of the beta-cell. If the demand for insulin triggered by insulin resistance is arriving at a certain threshold, an insufficiency of the cleavage capacity of beta-cell carboxypeptidase H leads to an increased secretion of intact proinsulin in addition to the desired insulin molecule. Proinsulin, however, has been demonstrated to be an independent cardiovascular risk factor by stimulating plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 secretion and blocking fibrinolysis. A recently introduced intact proinsulin assay is able to distinguish between intact proinsulin and its specific and non-specific cleavage products. This assay allows for a pathophysiological staging of type 2 diabetes based on beta-cell secretion. It could be confirmed by a large epidemiological study (IRIS-2, 4,265 patients) that intact proinsulin is a highly specific marker for insulin resistance. It could also be shown in other studies that successful resistance treatment with insulin or glitazones led to a decrease in elevated proinsulin levels and, thus, to a decrease of cardiovascular risk, while the levels remained high during sulfonylurea therapy. Therefore, patients with increased fasting intact proinsulin values should be treated with a therapy focusing on insulin resistance. Assessment of beta-cell function by determination of intact proinsulin may facilitate the selection of the most promising therapy and may also serve to monitor treatment success in the further course of the disease.  


Pfutzner A, Pfutzner AH, Larbig M, Forst T. Role of intact proinsulin in diagnosis and treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2004;6:405-412. 

Last Modified: 2/22/2013