1. The effect of insulin (0.5, 10 and 50 munits/ml of perfusate) on glucose uptake and disposal in skeletal muscle was studied in the isolated perfused hindquarter of obese (fa/fa) and lean (Fa/Fa) Zucker rats and Osborne-Mendel rats. 2. A concentration of 0.5 munit of insulin/ml induced a significant increase in glucose uptake (approx. 2.5 mumol/min per 30 g of muscle) in lean Zucker rats and in Osborne-Mendel rats, and 10 munits of insulin/ml caused a further increase to approx. 6 mumol/min per 30 g of muscle; but 50 munits of insulin/ml had no additional stimulatory effect. In contrast, in obese Zucker rats only 10 and 50 munits of insulin/ml had a stimulatory effect on glucose uptake, the magnitude of which was decreased by 50-70% when compared with either lean control group. Since under no experimental condition tested was an accumulation of free glucose in muscle-cell water observed, the data suggest an impairment of insulin-stimulated glucose transport across the muscle-cell membrane in obese Zucker rats. 3. The intracellular disposal of glucose in skeletal muscle of obese Zucker rats was also insulin-insensitive: even at insulin concentrations that clearly stimulated glucose uptake, no effect of insulin on lactate oxidation (nor an inhibitory effect on alanine release) was observed; [14C]glucose incorporation into skeletal-muscle lipids was stimulated by 50 munits of insulin/ml, but the rate was still only 10% of that observed in lean Zucker rats. 4. The data indicate that the skeletal muscle of obese Zucker rats is insulin-resistant with respect to both glucose-transport mechanisms and intracellular pathways of glucose metabolism, such as lactate oxidation. The excessive degree of insulin-insensitivity in skeletal muscle of obese Zucker rats may represent a causal factor in the development of the glucose intolerance in this species.

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