Lean (Fa/-) and genetically obese (fa/fa) Zucker rats were adrenalectomized at 18 days of age (3 days before weaning) before the onset of hyperinsulinaemia. At 40–41 days of age, basal and glucose-stimulated insulin concentrations did not differ significantly between lean and obese rats. Plasma insulin and glucose concentrations were higher in both phenotypes 24 h after administration of corticosterone (2·0 mg at 12-h intervals). Corticosterone-treated obese rats had higher basal and glucose-stimulated insulin levels than similarly treated lean animals, although plasma glucose concentrations did not differ between phenotypes. The basal plasma insulin concentration of obese rats treated with corticosterone for 24 h was reduced 15, 30 and 45 min after injection of atropine (0·3 mg) without any significant change in the plasma glucose level. Injection of atropine (0·3 mg) 20 min before a glucose load prevented the greater increment in plasma insulin concentration of corticosterone-treated obese rats compared with similarly treated lean animals. Atropine administration (0·3 mg) to intact obese rats at 40 days of age reduced, but did not abolish, their hyperinsulinaemia compared with intact lean animals. It is concluded that (1) pre-weaning adrenalectomy prevents the development of hyperinsulinaemia in genetically obese rats, (2) corticosterone replacement for only 24 h restores the hyperinsulinaemia of obese rats, (3) the differential effects of corticosterone on insulin secretion by lean and obese rats are mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system and (4) the parasympathetic nervous system contributes to, but is not the only cause of, hyperinsulinaemia in intact obese rats.
J. Endocr. (1988) 118, 87–92