The existence of extrapancreatic islets in the duodenal mucosa of the adult rat has been established by morphological studies and the development of these islets has been followed from the early embryonic stage to neonatal and adult life. Like the pancreatic islets, glucagon cells were the first to appear at day 12 of gestation. However, in contrast to the pancreatic islets, insulin was not detected in the extrapancreatic islets until birth. At this stage, the different endocrine cells assume their classical topography, insulin cells being surrounded by non-insulin endocrine cells. In addition, the behaviour of these extrapancreatic islets in diabetic conditions was evaluated on streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats as well as on spontaneous BB Wistar diabetic rats. In both conditions, the extrapancreatic islets were found in the duodenal mucosa but were mainly composed of glucagon cells, the insulin cells having disappeared. These results demonstrate that the extrapancreatic islets are a common normal feature of the rat duodenal mucosa. They appear during fetal development, are present in different strains of rats and behave similarly to the pancreatic islets under spontaneous or chemically induced diabetic conditions. Although their exact role remains to be established, they probably react to local hyperglycaemic environment due to intestinal absorption.
Journal of Endocrinology (1997) 153, 73–80