Glutamate decarboxylase autoimmunity and growth hormone secretion in type I diabetes mellitus

Andrea Giustina, Paolo Desenzani, Paola Perini, Elena Bazzigaluppi, Corrado Bodini, Simonetta Bossoni, Claudio Poiesi, William B. Wehrenberg, Emanuele Bosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insulin-dependent (type I) diabetic patients are known to have an exaggerated growth hormone (GH) response to GH-releasing hormone (GHRH), which is hypothesized to be due to a decrease in somatostatin tone. The aim of the study was to ascertain the influence of the presence and activity of the autoimmune process involving a key enzyme (glutamic acid decarboxylase [GAD]) in the synthetic pathway of a neurotransmitter regulating somatostatin secretion, ie, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), on the GH response to GHRH alone or combined with an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, pyridostigmine (PD), in patients with type I diabetes mellitus. Twenty non-obese type I diabetic patients and 17 normal subjects underwent an intravenous (IV) injection of 100 μg GHRH(1-29)NH2. Twelve of 20 diabetic subjects and all of the control subjects also underwent a second experimental procedure, administration of 120 mg oral PD 60 minutes before IV injection of 100 μg GHRH. Diabetic subjects with serum GAD antibody (GADA) levels more than 3 U (n = 10) showed significantly higher serum GH levels after GHRH injection as compared both with diabetic patients with GADA less than 3 U (n = 10) and with normal controls, whether expressed as absolute or peak values. GH peaks after GHRH were significantly (r(s) = .46, P <.05) correlated with the level of GADA in the whole population of type I diabetic subjects studied. PD significantly enhanced the GH response to GHRH, in terms of both absolute and peak values, in patients without GADA (n = 6) and in normal subjects. On the contrary, PD failed to enhance the GH response to GHRH in diabetic patients with GADA (n = 6). Our findings suggest that autoimmunity may play a key role in determining the exaggerated GH response to GHRH in type I diabetes mellitus. The mechanism underlying this affect is hypothesized to be the production of antibodies to GAD, a key enzyme in the synthesis of GABA, and in turn a reduced GABAergic stimulatory tone on somatostatin production at the hypothalamic level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-387
Number of pages6
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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