The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that physiological concentrations of glucagon may increase plasma ketone body concentration when sufficient free fatty acid substrate is available to support hepatic ketogenesis. Physiological elevations of plasma glucagon concentration were produced by a constant infusion of hormone, and increased plasma-free fatty acid availability was produced by simultaneous heparin injection to induce intravascular lipolysis. In the five insulin-dependent subjects studied, when plasma glucagon concentration remained at the normal basal level of 72+/-14 pg/ml during control saline infusion, the heparin-induced increase in free fatty acid availability resulted in approximately a 20% increase in plasma ketone body concentration. In contrast, when plasma glucagon concentration was elevated by hormone infusion to the physiological level of 215+/-35 pg/ml, the heparin-induced increases in free fatty acid availability resulted in approximately an 80% increase in plasma ketone body concentration. These results suggest that physiological elevations in plasma glucagon concentration may augment ketonemia in diabetic man when simultaneous elevations in plasma-free fatty acid arepresent.
D S Schade, R P Eaton