Isolated adipocytes and soleus muscles prepared from mature rats, rendered hypothyroid by a low iodine diet and propylthiouracil, markedly resisted the ability of insulin to increase glucose utilization. In adipocytes, the sum of basal d-(1-14C)-glucose conversion to CO2, glyceride-glycerol, and fatty acid was unaltered by hypothyroidism, although conversion to fatty acid was decreased. The response of each of these metabolic pathways to insulin at all concentrations tested was greatly diminished in hypothyroid rat adipocytes. 3-O-Methylglucose transport rates in the presence of insulin were not significantly different in adipocytes from hypothyroid as compared with euthyroid rats, although basal transport rates were significantly higher in the hypothyroid state. Lipolysis and cyclic AMP accumulation in adipocytes from hypothyroid rats in response to theophylline were markedly diminished compared with euthyroid controls, but insulin was about as effective in inhibiting lipolysis in these cells as in those derived from euthyroid animals. The binding of 125I-insulin to adipocytes at several hormone concentrations was also shown to be unaffected by hypothyroidism.
In soleus muscle, basal glucose conversion to H2O and glycogen was unaltered in the hypothyroid state, whereas insulin action on these pathways was markedly inhibited. The decrease in muscle insulin responsiveness was less marked than that observed in adipocytes. Uptake of either 2-deoxyglucose or l-arabinose in the presence or absence of insulin was similar in soleus muscles derived from euthryoid vs. hypothyroid rats. Similarly, insulin action on the conversion of soleus muscle glycogen synthase D to the I form in the absence of glucose was unaltered by hypothyroidism. We conclude that (a) hypothyroidism in mature rats leads to a marked decrease in the responsiveness of glucose metabolism in adipocytes and skeletal muscle to insulin; (b) no detectable impairment of the membrane insulin effector systems that mediate the regulation of adipocyte hexose transport and glycogen synthase is caused by hypothyroidism in this animal model; and (c) the cellular defect that leads to apparent insulin resistance of adipocyte and soleus muscle glucose utilization resides at the level of one or more intracellular enzymes involved in glucose catabolism.