Hypertrophy of beta cells from obese fa/fa rats is associated with increased sensitivity to basal glucose. Exposure to glucose in culture distorts insulin secretion more in beta cells from large than small islets from fa/fa rats. The aim of the present study is to investigate whether increased beta cell volume is associated with both glucose hypersensitivity and altered activity of the glucose-sensitive anion conductance. Beta cells from fa/fa rats had increased volume compared with those from lean rats after 24 h culture. Three-day exposure to 25 mM glucose in culture induced 10-15% hypertrophy in beta cells from lean rats and basal secretion from intact islets was increased tenfold. Estimates of ion channel activity were made from measurement of radiolabeled ion efflux. Taurine efflux, a marker of glucose-regulated anion channel activity, was reduced after high glucose exposure but no alterations in glucose-dependent K+ efflux were detected. The reverse hemolytic plaque assay was used to determine the contributions of the number of secreting cells (recruitment) versus secretion per cell in beta cells from enlarged (>250 microm diameter), intermediate (125-250 microm) and small (<125 microm) islets from lean and obese rats exposed to conditions mimicking hyperglycemia. After overnight culture, basal secretion was twofold greater from beta cells of large fa/fa islets compared with all other groups. Recruitment at low glucose was increased in all lean or fa/fa beta cells derived from >125 microm islets. When beta cells from small islets were exposed to supra-physiological glucose for 3 days, recruitment was increased at basal glucose and blunted at high glucose. Glucose exposure converts the recruitment profile of beta cells from small islets to resemble that of beta cells from large islets while inducing cellular hypertrophy and reduced anion conductance. However, hypertrophy alone did not predict functional characteristics of overnight-cultured beta cells from fa/fa rats.
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