Exogenous insulin exists primarily as the monomer in human plasma. However, in U100 regular insulin formulations, the concentrations of zinc and peptide are such that the insulin hexamer predominates. The biologic result is further disassociation to the monomer after subcutaneous or i.v. administration. Because of this, human plasma from seven normal controls dissolved 20–30 µm hexagonal insulin crystals in 3–8 min. This ability was inhibited by acid titration to a stable pH of 6.30, at which point bicarbonate depletion could be suggested. Repletion of bicarbonate remarkably restored the solvent effect, while back-titration to the initial pH without repleting bicarbonate had only a moderate result. To establish whether the in vivo reduction of bicarbonate in pathologic states had similar results, plasma from five Type I diabetics in severe acidosis (pH 7.06 ± 0.04, HCO3– 7.3 ± 0.6 mmol/l) was similarly studied after stabilization under 5% CO2 (pH, 6.97–7.17). In all cases, the dissolution of insulin crystals was inhibited (dissolution times > 25 min). When bicarbonate was replenished (HCO3– 24.1–26.7 mmol/l) and pH accordingly renormalized (pH 7.39–7.43), the dissolution of insulin crystals was completely restored. Because of these observations, we conclude that both plasma bicarbonate and pH markedly affect the dissolution of insulin and that reduced bicarbonate/pH in diabetic ketoacidosis may limit the availability of the biologically active monomer. These influences may play a role in the initial insensitivity to insulin frequently seen in severe insulin deficiency and ketoacidosis. ASAIO Transactions 1989; 35: 26–29.
©1989 American Society of Artificial Internal Organs