1. 31P nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and the hyperinsulinaemic-euglycaemic clamp were used simultaneously to assess the effect of insulin on intracellular pH and the major phosphorus-containing metabolites of normal human skeletal muscle in vivo in four normal subjects.
2. Insulin and glucose were infused for 120 min. Plasma insulin increased approximately 10-fold over pre-clamp levels (5.6 ± 0.9 m-units/l pre-clamp and 54 ± 5 m-units/l over the last hour of infusion; mean ± sem, n = 4). Plasma glucose concentration did not change significantly (5.4 ± 0.2 mmol/l pre-clamp and 5.5 ± 0.1 mmol/l over the last hour of infusion).
3. Insulin and glucose infusion resulted in a decline in the intracellular pH of forearm muscle of 0.027 ± 0.007 unit/h (P < 0.01), whereas in control studies of the same subjects, pH rose by 0.046 ± 0.005 unit/h (P < 0.001).
4. In the clamp studies, intracellular inorganic phosphate concentration rose by 18%/h, whereas ATP, phosphocreatine and phosphomonoester concentrations did not change. In plasma, inorganic phosphate concentration was 1.16 ± 0.05 mmol/l before infusion, and this decreased by a mean rate of 0.14 mmol h−1 l−1. No change was observed in any of these intracellular metabolites in the control studies.
5. The results show that, under physiological conditions, insulin does not raise intracellular pH in human muscle, and thus cannot influence muscle metabolism by this mechanism. The results also suggest that insulin causes a primary increase in the next flux of inorganic phosphate across the muscle cell membrane.