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R Paul Robertson

Glucagon is a peptide hormone that is produced primarily by the alpha cells in the islet of Langerhans in the pancreas, but also in intestinal enteroendocrine cells and in some neurons. Approximately 100 years ago several research groups discovered that pancreatic extracts would cause a brief rise blood glucose before they observed the decrease in glucose attributed to insulin. An overall description of the regulation of glucagon secretion requires inclusion of its sibling insulin because they both are made primarily by the islet and they both regulate each other in different ways. For example, glucagon stimulates insulin secretion, whereas insulin suppresses glucagon secretion. The mechanism of action of glucagon on insulin secretion has been identified as a trimeric guanine nucleotide-binding protein (G-protein)-mediated event. The manner in which insulin suppresses glucagon release from the alpha cell is thought to be highly dependent on the peri-portal circulation of the islet through which blood flows downstream from beta cells to alpha cells. In this scenario, it is via the circulation that insulin is thought to suppresses the release of glucagon. However, high levels of glucose also have been shown to suppress glucagon secretion. Consequently, the glucose lowering effect of insulin may be additive to the direct effects of insulin to suppress alpha cell function, so that in vivo both the discontinuation of the insulin signal and the condition of low glucose jointly are responsible for induction of glucagon secretion.

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Wenjing Wang, Lisa Upshaw, D Michael Strong, R Paul Robertson, and JoAnna Reems

In this study, we investigated the use of a novel oxygen biosensor system to detect changes in oxygen consumption rates (OCRs) by islets in response to glucose. Islets from non-human primate and human pancreata were seeded into an oxygen biosensor system microplate and exposed to basal (2.8 or 5.6 mM) or high (16.7 or 33.3 mM) glucose over either a long-term or a short-term culture. Our data clearly demonstrated that non-human primate islets cultured in high glucose conditions exhibited significant increases in OCRs over a 168 h extended culture period (P<0.05), which indicates an accelerated rate of β-cell metabolism triggered by glucose over time. Significant increases in OCRs (P<0.01) were also attained in both non-human primate and human islets exposed to high glucose conditions in a 120 min short-term incubation period. OCRs exhibited by human islets exposed to different glucose concentrations correlated with insulin secretion (r 2=0.7681, P<0.01). Moreover, the OCR stimulation index (i.e. OCR at high glucose/OCR at basal glucose) was significantly greater in human islets displaying high viabilities as opposed to islets exhibiting low viabilities (P<0.05). Together these data demonstrate that this novel oxygen biosensor system documents significant increases in islet oxygen consumption upon acute and chronic exposure to high glucose concentrations. Importantly, this methodology rapidly and robustly detects changes in OCRs by islets in response to high glucose stimulation that correlate well with the metabolic activities and functional viability of islets and clearly delineates significant differences in OCR stimulation index between high and low viability human islets, and therefore may prove to be an effective approach for quickly assessing the functional viability of islets prior to transplantation.