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Antonella Amato, Sara Baldassano and Flavia Mulè

Glucagon-like peptide 2 (GLP2) is a proglucagon-derived peptide produced by intestinal enteroendocrine L-cells and by a discrete population of neurons in the brainstem, which projects mainly to the hypothalamus. The main biological actions of GLP2 are related to the regulation of energy absorption and maintenance of mucosal morphology, function and integrity of the intestine; however, recent experimental data suggest that GLP2 exerts beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, especially in conditions related to increased uptake of energy, such as obesity, at least in the animal model. Indeed, mice lacking GLP2 receptor selectively in hypothalamic neurons that express proopiomelanocortin show impaired postprandial glucose tolerance and hepatic insulin resistance (by increased gluconeogenesis). Moreover, GLP2 acts as a beneficial factor for glucose metabolism in mice with high-fat diet-induced obesity. Thus, the aim of this review is to update and summarize current knowledge about the role of GLP2 in the control of glucose homeostasis and to discuss how this molecule could exert protective effects against the onset of related obesity type 2 diabetes.

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Sara Baldassano, Antonella Amato, Francesco Cappello, Francesca Rappa and Flavia Mulè

Endogenous glucagon-like peptide-2 (GLP2) is a key mediator of refeeding-induced and resection-induced intestinal adaptive growth. This study investigated the potential role of GLP2 in mediating the mucosal responses to a chronic high-fat diet (HFD). In this view, the murine small intestine adaptive response to a HFD was analyzed and a possible involvement of endogenous GLP2 was verified using GLP2 (3–33) as GLP2 receptor (GLP2R) antagonist. In comparison with animals fed a standard diet, mice fed a HFD for 14 weeks exhibited an increase in crypt–villus mean height (duodenum, 27.5±3.0%; jejunum, 36.5±2.9%; P<0.01), in the cell number per villus (duodenum, 28.4±2.2%; jejunum, 32.0±2.9%; P<0.01), and in Ki67-positive cell number per crypt. No change in the percent of caspase-3-positive cell in the villus–crypt was observed. The chronic exposure to a HFD also caused a significant increase in GLP2 plasma levels and in GLP2R intestinal expression. Daily administration of GLP2 (3–33) (30–60 ng) for 4 weeks did not modify the crypt–villus height in control mice. In HFD-fed mice, chronic treatment with GLP2 (3–33) reduced the increase in crypt–villus height and in the cell number per villus through reduction of cell proliferation and increase in apoptosis. This study provides the first experimental evidence for a role of endogenous GLP2 in the intestinal adaptation to HFD in obese mice and for a dysregulation of the GLP2/GLP2R system after a prolonged HFD.

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Antonella Amato, Sara Baldassano, Rosa Liotta, Rosa Serio and Flavia Mulè

Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1) is a naturally occurring peptide secreted by intestinal L-cells. Though its primary function is to serve as an incretin, GLP1 reduces gastrointestinal motility. However, only a handful of animal studies have specifically evaluated the influence of GLP1 on colonic motility. Consequently, the aims of this study were to investigate the effects induced by exogenous GLP1, to analyze the mechanism of action, and to verify the presence of GLP1 receptors (GLP1Rs) in human colon circular muscular strips. Organ bath technique, RT-PCR, western blotting, and immunofluorescence were used. In human colon, exogenous GLP1 reduced, in a concentration-dependent manner, the amplitude of the spontaneous contractions without affecting the frequency and the resting basal tone. This inhibitory effect was significantly reduced by exendin (9–39), a GLP1R antagonist, which per se significantly increased the spontaneous mechanical activity. Moreover, it was abolished by tetrodotoxin, a neural blocker, or N ω-nitro-l-arginine – a blocker of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). The biomolecular analysis revealed a genic and protein expression of the GLP1R in the human colon. The double-labeling experiments with anti-neurofilament or anti-nNOS showed, for the first time, that immunoreactivity for the GLP1R was expressed in nitrergic neurons of the myenteric plexus. In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that GLP1R is expressed in the human colon and, once activated by exogenous GLP1, mediates an inhibitory effect on large intestine motility through NO neural release.