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B. Billaudel and B. Ch. J. Sutter

The effect of infused corticosterone (300 μg/h per kg body wt) on the concentrations of insulin in the plasma of the rat was examined (1) when glucose concentration was basal, (2) at standardized glucose levels attained by modulated glucose infusion and (3) in response to a standard or a modulated glucose pulse. There was no effect of corticosterone on the levels of plasma insulin when the glucose concentrations were either basal or raised in response to the standard pulse of glucose. However, when glucose was infused a significantly reduced plasma level of insulin was detected after 60 min when the glucocorticoid was present and this level remained significantly reduced after the modulated pulse of glucose. Thus the infusion of corticosterone leads to an acute depression of the concentrations of insulin in the plasma and of their response to a glucose pulse only when the hormone acts in the presence of a concentration of glucose in the plasma that is insulin-stimulatory.

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PM Bourlon, B Billaudel, and A Faure-Dussert

Because 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) is known to activate the biosynthesis of numerous proteins in various tissues, experiments were undertaken to compare the influence of 1,25(OH)2D3 in vitro on both the secretion and biosynthesis of insulin in islets of Langerhans from both 4-week vitamin D3-deficient rats and normal rats. Islets were either incubated or perifused after a 6-h induction period in the presence of various concentrations of 1, 25(OH)2D3 from 10(-12) M, which was inactive in controls, to 10(-6) M. Experiments were performed in the presence of a non-labelled amino acid mixture, to favour protein synthesis. Tritiated tyrosine was added as tracer during glucose stimulation. The newly synthesised proteins, labelled with [3H]tyrosine, were extracted by an acid-alcohol method and separated by gel chromatography adapted for low-molecular-weight proteins. Even in the presence of the amino acid mixture, the insulin response of the islets to 16.7 mM glucose was decreased by vitamin D3 deficiency and improved by 1,25(OH)2D3. This beneficial effect did not occur in basal conditions, but only during glucose stimulation, and was observed in both phases of insulin release. Moreover, these effects disappeared in the presence of 5x10(-4 )M cycloheximide, a protein biosynthesis inhibitor. Islets from vitamin D3-deficient rats exhibited a general decrease in the amount of de novo biosynthesised proteins and of [3H]tyrosine-labelled insulin and proinsulin fractions. A 6-h period of 1,25(OH)2D3 induction significantly improved the amount of de novo biosynthesised proteins, and particularly of newly synthesised insulin in response to a 2-h glucose stimulation. Calculation of the rate of conversion of newly synthesised proinsulin-like material to insulin as the [3H]insulin/[3H]proinsulin-like material ratio provided evidence for a dose-dependent increase, induced by 1, 25(OH)2D3, that could exceed that of normal islets. These data support the hypothesis that 1,25(OH)2D3 in vitro not only facilitated the biosynthetic capacity of the beta cell - which was highly induced during a 16.7-mM glucose stimulation, via a global activation of islets protein biosynthesis - but also produced an acceleration of the conversion of proinsulin to insulin.

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PM Bourlon, A Faure-Dussert, and B Billaudel

Since both the release and de novo biosynthesis of insulin are severely decreased by vitamin D3 deficiency and improved by 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) repletion following a 6-h delay in the rat, the present experiments investigated the effects of vitamin D3 deficiency on the biosynthesis of heavier molecular weight proteins using electrophoretic separation. Gel protein staining by Coomassie blue showed very different profiles for islets protein production from 4-week vitamin D3-deficient rats compared with normal islets. The pattern was characterised by a decrease in high molecular weight proteins, concomitantly accompanied by an increase in low molecular weight proteins. This tendency was partially reversed in vivo by 1,25(OH)2D3 repletion treatment for 7 days and was evident after only 16 h of treatment. In parallel with these in vivo observations, which represent a static index of islets protein production, a kinetic study was performed in vitro by a double-labelling method allowing us to measure the de novo synthesis of proteins in islets during a strong 16.7 mM glucose stimulation. Comparison of 3H and 14C labelled samples was achieved via coelectrophoresis to avoid experimental artefacts. The study of the ratio of d.p.m. 3H/d.p.m. 14C for each molecular weight protein in islets stimulated by 16.7 mM glucose (versus basal 4.2 mM glucose) showed an increase in the height of certain peaks: 150, 130 and 8.5 kDa. Under the same conditions, islets from 4-week vitamin D3-deficient rats (versus normal islets) presented a large deficit of numerous newly synthesised proteins and particularly those implicated in the response to glucose stimulation. In vitro repletion of 1,25(OH)2D3 tended to reverse, at least in part, the deleterious effect of vitamin D3 deficiency on the de novo protein synthesis of islets but these effects were gradual. Indeed, there was no detectable effect at 2 h incubation, but 1,25(OH)2D3 increased the 60 to 65 kDa, 55 kDa, and 9 to 8 kDa molecular mass proteins at 4 h, and increased the level of most newly synthesised proteins at 6 h. These data support the hypothesis of a beneficial genomic influence of 1,25(OH)2D3 that occurs progressively within the islets of Langerhans and which may prepare the beta cells for an enhanced response to glucose stimulation.

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B. Billaudel, P. C. F. Mathias, B. C. J. Sutter, and W. J. Malaisse


Corticosterone (0·6 μmol/l) inhibited both 45Ca outflow and insulin release evoked by glucose, the combination of leucine and glutamine, 2-ketoisocaproate, gliclazide or the association of gliclazide and a tumour-promoting phorbol ester in rat pancreatic islets perifused at normal extracellular Ca2+ concentration (1·0 mmol/l). In all cases, the inhibitory action of corticosterone reached statistical significance within 10–22 min of exposure to this steroid and failed to be rapidly reversible. Corticosterone failed to affect basal 45Ca outflow and insulin release. The steroid also failed to affect the inhibitory action of glucose upon 45Ca outflow, as judged from either the glucose-induced early fall in effluent radioactivity from islets maintained at normal extracellular Ca2+ concentration or the steady-state values for 45Ca outflow from glucose-stimulated but Ca2+-deprived islets. Corticosterone caused a modest increase in 86Rb outflow from islets perifused in the presence of glucose (16·7 mmol/l). It is concluded that corticosterone impairs Ca2+ inflow into the islet cells and, by doing so, causes a progressive inhibition of insulin release. The pancreatic B cell might thus serve as a further model for the study of the rapid biological response to steroids, as presumably mediated by alteration in the biophysical properties of the plasma membrane.

J. Endocr. (1984) 100, 227–233

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P-M Bourlon, A Faure-Dussert, B Billaudel, B Ch J Sutter, G Tramu, and M Thomasset


The pancreatic B cell is equipped with specific receptors for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25-(OH)2D3) and contains vitamin D-dependent calcium binding proteins (calbindin-D). Insulin secretion is impaired by vitamin D deficiency and is restored by 1,25-(OH)2D3 (concomitantly with an improved calcium handling within B cells) but the effect of 1,25-(OH)2D3 on the pancreatic B cell via calbindin-D is unclear. Therefore we examined the relationship between calbindin-D28K or calbindin-D9K and the activity of the endocrine pancreas in normal (N), four week vitamin D-deficient (−D) and one week 1,25-(OH)2D3-replete (+D) rats. Calbindin-D9K was not found in the pancreas, neither in the islets nor in the exocrine part, of any of the groups of rats (N, −D, or +D). Surprisingly, total islet calbindin-D28K content was increased by vitamin D deficiency and partly restored by 1,25-(OH)2D3. Calbindin-D28K immunostaining was observed only on A and B cells in the endocrine part of the pancreas, the greatest staining being found in A cells. This difference in staining density was increased by vitamin D deficiency and decreased by 1,25-(OH)2D3 treatment. In vitro, 1,25-(OH)2D3 also produced a negative influence on calbindin-D28K staining in A cells, as demonstrated using pieces of pancreas incubated with the steroid for 2 h. No significant influence on labeling intensity of B cell calbindin-D28K could be shown. Plasma insulin and islet insulin release in response to 10 mm arginine stimulation were decreased in −D rats and enhanced in +D rats towards N values. In contrast, plasma glucagon and the amount of glucagon secretion, stimulated in vitro by 10 mm arginine or by low (1·7 mm) glucose concentration, was increased in −D rats and attenuated by 1,25-(OH)2D3.

Thus there appears to be no relationship between the steady state level of B cell calbindin-D28K and the regulation of insulin secretion by 1,25-(OH)2D3 in vitamin D-deficient rats. However there is a correlation between A cell calbindin-D28K and glucagon secretion, which are both negatively regulated by 1,25-(OH)2D3. The predominance of calbindin-D28K in A cells raises the question as to how A and B cells interact and the role of calbindin-D28K in calcium handling.

Journal of Endocrinology (1996) 148, 223–232