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Jennifer H Stern, Gordon I Smith, Shiuwei Chen, Roger H Unger, Samuel Klein and Philipp E Scherer

Hyperglucagonemia, a hallmark in obesity and insulin resistance promotes hepatic glucose output, exacerbating hyperglycemia and thus predisposing to the development type 2 diabetes. As such, glucagon signaling is a key target for new therapeutics to manage insulin resistance. We evaluated glucagon homeostasis in lean and obese mice and people. In lean mice, fasting for 24 h caused a rise in glucagon. In contrast, a decrease in serum glucagon compared to baseline was observed in diet-induced obese mice between 8 and 24 h of fasting. Fasting decreased serum insulin in both lean and obese mice. Accordingly, the glucagon:insulin ratio was unaffected by fasting in obese mice but increased in lean mice. Re-feeding (2 h) restored hyperglucagonemia in obese mice. Pancreatic perfusion studies confirm that fasting (16 h) decreases pancreatic glucagon secretion in obese mice. Consistent with our findings in the mouse, a mixed meal increased serum glucagon and insulin concentrations in obese humans, both of which decreased with time after a meal. Consequently, fasting and re-feeding less robustly affected glucagon:insulin ratios in obese compared to lean participants. The glucoregulatory disturbance in obesity may be driven by inappropriate regulation of glucagon by fasting and a static glucagon:insulin ratio.

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Thomas H Claus, Clark Q Pan, Joanne M Buxton, Ling Yang, Jennifer C Reynolds, Nicole Barucci, Michael Burns, Astrid A Ortiz, Steve Roczniak, James N Livingston, Kevin B Clairmont and James P Whelan

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by reduced insulin secretion from the pancreas and overproduction of glucose by the liver. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) promotes glucose-dependent insulin secretion from the pancreas, while glucagon promotes glucose output from the liver. Taking advantage of the homology between GLP-1 and glucagon, a GLP-1/glucagon hybrid peptide, dual-acting peptide for diabetes (DAPD), was identified with combined GLP-1 receptor agonist and glucagon receptor antagonist activity. To overcome its short plasma half-life DAPD was PEGylated, resulting in dramatically prolonged activity in vivo. PEGylated DAPD (PEG-DAPD) increases insulin and decreases glucose in a glucose tolerance test, evidence of GLP-1 receptor agonism. It also reduces blood glucose following a glucagon challenge and elevates fasting glucagon levels in mice, evidence of glucagon receptor antagonism. The PEG-DAPD effects on glucose tolerance are also observed in the presence of the GLP-1 antagonist peptide, exendin(9–39). An antidiabetic effect of PEG-DAPD is observed in db/db mice. Furthermore, PEGylation of DAPD eliminates the inhibition of gastrointestinal motility observed with GLP-1 and its analogues. Thus, PEG-DAPD has the potential to be developed as a novel dual-acting peptide to treat type 2 diabetes, with prolonged in vivo activity, and without the GI side-effects.

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Hans Eickhoff, Teresa Louro, Paulo Matafome, Raquel Seiça and Francisco Castro e Sousa

Excessive or inadequate glucagon secretion promoting hepatic gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis is believed to contribute to hyperglycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes. Currently, metabolic surgery is an accepted treatment for obese patients with type 2 diabetes and has been shown to improve glycemic control in Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats, a lean animal model for type 2 diabetes. However, the effects of surgery on glucagon secretion are not yet well established. In this study, we randomly assigned forty 12- to 14-week-old GK rats to four groups: control group (GKC), sham surgery (GKSS), sleeve gastrectomy (GKSG), and gastric bypass (GKGB). Ten age-matched Wistar rats served as a non-diabetic control group (WIC). Glycemic control was assessed before and 4 weeks after surgery. Fasting- and mixed-meal-induced plasma levels of insulin and glucagon were measured. Overall glycemic control improved in GKSG and GKGB rats. Fasting insulin levels in WIC rats were similar to those for GKC or GKSS rats. Fasting glucagon levels were highest in GKGB rats. Whereas WIC, GKC, and GKSS rats showed similar glucagon levels, without any significant meal-induced variation, a significant rise occurred in GKSG and GKGB rats, 30 min after a mixed meal, which was maintained at 60 min. Both GKSG and GKGB rats showed an elevated glucagon:insulin ratio at 60 min in comparison with all other groups. Surprisingly, the augmented post-procedural glucagon secretion was accompanied by an improved overall glucose metabolism in GKSG and GKGB rats. Understanding the role of glucagon in the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes requires further research.

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L M McShane, N Irwin, D O’Flynn, Z J Franklin, C M Hewage and F P M O’Harte

Ablation of glucagon receptor signaling represents a potential treatment option for type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Additionally, activation of glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptor signaling also holds therapeutic promise for T2DM. Therefore, this study examined both independent and combined metabolic actions of desHis1Pro4Glu9(Lys12PAL)-glucagon (glucagon receptor antagonist) and d-Ala2GIP (GIP receptor agonist) in diet-induced obese mice. Glucagon receptor binding has been linked to alpha-helical structure and desHis1Pro4Glu9(Lys12PAL)-glucagon displayed enhanced alpha-helical content compared with native glucagon. In clonal pancreatic BRIN-BD11 beta-cells, desHis1Pro4Glu9(Lys12PAL)-glucagon was devoid of any insulinotropic or cAMP-generating actions, and did not impede d-Ala2GIP-mediated (P<0.01 to P<0.001) effects on insulin and cAMP production. Twice-daily injection of desHis1Pro4Glu9(Lys12PAL)-glucagon or d-Ala2GIP alone, and in combination, in high-fat-fed mice failed to affect body weight or energy intake. Circulating blood glucose levels were significantly (P<0.05 to P<0.01) decreased by all treatments regimens, with plasma and pancreatic insulin elevated (P<0.05 to P<0.001) in all mice receiving d-Ala2GIP. Interestingly, plasma glucagon concentrations were decreased (P<0.05) by sustained glucagon inhibition (day 28), but increased (P<0.05) by d-Ala2GIP therapy, with a combined treatment resulting in glucagon concentration similar to saline controls. All treatments improved (P<0.01) intraperitoneal and oral glucose tolerance, and peripheral insulin sensitivity. d-Ala2GIP-treated mice showed increased glucose-induced insulin secretion in response to intraperitoneal and oral glucose. Metabolic rate and ambulatory locomotor activity were increased (P<0.05 to P<0.001) in all desHis1Pro4Glu9(Lys12PAL)-glucagon-treated mice. These studies highlight the potential of glucagon receptor inhibition alone, and in combination with GIP receptor activation, for T2DM treatment.

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Yoko Fujiwara, Masami Hiroyama, Atsushi Sanbe, Junji Yamauchi, Gozoh Tsujimoto and Akito Tanoue

[Arg8]-vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OT) are neurohypophysial hormones which exert various actions, including the control of blood glucose, in some peripheral tissues. To investigate the type of receptors involved in AVP- and OT-induced glucagon secretion, we investigated the effect of these peptides on glucagon secretion in islets of wild-type (V1bR+/+) and vasopressin V1b receptor knockout (V1bR/−) mice. AVP-induced glucagon secretion was significantly inhibited by the selective V1b receptor antagonist, SSR149415 (30%), and OT-induced glucagon secretion by the specific OT receptor antagonist, d(CH2)5[Tyr(Me)2, Thr4, Tyr-NH29]OVT (CL-14-26) (45%), in islets of V1bR+/+mice. AVP- and OT-induced glucagon secretions were not by the antagonist of each, but co-incubation with both 10−6 M SSR149415 and 10−6 M CL-14-26 further inhibited AVP- and OT-induced glucagon secretions in islets of V1bR+/+ mice (57 and 69% of the stimulation values respectively). In addition, both AVP and OT stimulated glucagon secretion with the same efficacy in V1bR/− mice as in V1bR+/+ mice. AVP- and OT-induced glucagon secretion in V1bR/− mice was significantly inhibited by CL-14-26. These results demonstrate that V1b receptors can mediate OT-induced glucagon secretion and OT receptors can mediate AVP-induced glucagon secretion in islets from V1bR+/+mice in the presence of a heterologous antagonist, while AVP and OT can stimulate glucagon secretion through the OT receptors in V1bR/−mice, suggesting that the other receptor can compensate when one receptor is absent.

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Yi Zhao, Tao Liu, Nina Zhang, Fenghua Yi, Qinghua Wang, Ivan George Fantus and Tianru Jin

Although the homeobox gene Cdx-2 was initially isolated from the pancreatic β cell line HIT-T15, no examination of its role in regulating endogenous insulin gene expression has been reported. To explore further the role of Cdx-2 in regulating both insulin and proglucagon gene expression, we established an ecdysone-inducible Cdx-2 expression system. This report describes a study using the rat insulinoma cell line RIN-1056A, which abundantly expresses both insulin and proglucagon (glu), and relatively high amounts of endogenous Cdx-2. Following the introduction of the inducible Cdx-2 expression system into this cell line and the antibiotic selection procedure, we obtained novel cell lines that displayed dramatically reduced expression of endogenous Cdx-2, in the absence of the inducer. These novel cell lines did not express detectable amounts of glu mRNA or the glucagon hormone, while their insulin expression was not substantially affected. In the presence of the inducer, however, transfected Cdx-2 expression was dramatically increased, accompanied by stimulation of endogenous Cdx-2 expression. More importantly, activated Cdx-2 expression was accompanied by elevated insulin mRNA expression, and insulin synthesis. Cdx-2 bound to the insulin gene promoter enhancer elements, and stimulated the expression of a luciferase reporter gene driven by these enhancer elements. Furthermore, Cdx-2 and insulin gene expressions in the wild-type RIN-1056A cells were stimulated by forskolin treatment, and forskolin-mediated activation on insulin gene expression was attenuated in the absence of Cdx-2. We suggest that Cdx-2 may mediate the second messenger cAMP in regulating insulin gene transcription.

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Linda Ahlkvist, Bilal Omar, Anders Valeur, Keld Fosgerau and Bo Ahrén

Stimulation of insulin secretion by short-term glucagon receptor (GCGR) activation is well characterized; however, the effect of long-term GCGR activation on β-cell function is not known, but of interest, since hyperglucagonemia occurs early during development of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, we examined whether chronic GCGR activation affects insulin secretion in glucose intolerant mice. To induce chronic GCGR activation, high-fat diet fed mice were continuously (2 weeks) infused with the stable glucagon analog ZP-GA-1 and challenged with oral glucose and intravenous glucose±glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1). Islets were isolated to evaluate the insulin secretory response to glucose±GLP1 and their pancreas were collected for immunohistochemical analysis. Two weeks of ZP-GA-1 infusion reduced insulin secretion both after oral and intravenous glucose challenges in vivo and in isolated islets. These inhibitory effects were corrected for by GLP1. Also, we observed increased β-cell area and islet size. We conclude that induction of chronic ZP-GA-1 levels in glucose intolerant mice markedly reduces insulin secretion, and thus, we suggest that chronic activation of the GCGR may contribute to the failure of β-cell function during development of type 2 diabetes.

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Olena A Fedorenko, Pawitra Pulbutr, Elin Banke, Nneoma E Akaniro-Ejim, Donna C Bentley, Charlotta S Olofsson, Sue Chan and Paul A Smith

L-type channel antagonists are of therapeutic benefit in the treatment of hyperlipidaemia and insulin resistance. Our aim was to identify L-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channels in white fat adipocytes, and determine if they affect intracellular Ca2+, lipolysis and lipogenesis. We used a multidisciplinary approach of molecular biology, confocal microscopy, Ca2+ imaging and metabolic assays to explore this problem using adipocytes isolated from adult rat epididymal fat pads. CaV1.2, CaV1.3 and CaV1.1 alpha1, beta and alpha2delta subunits were detected at the gene expression level. The CaV1.2 and CaV1.3 alpha1 subunits were identified in the plasma membrane at the protein level. Confocal microscopy with fluorescent antibodies labelled CaV1.2 in the plasma membrane. Ca2+ imaging revealed that the intracellular Ca2+ concentration, [Ca2 +]i was reversibly decreased by removal of extracellular Ca2+, an effect mimicked by verapamil, nifedipine and Co2+, all blockers of L-type channels, whereas the Ca2+ channel agonist BAY-K8644 increased [Ca2+]i. The finding that the magnitude of these effects correlated with basal [Ca2+]i suggests that adipocyte [Ca2+]i is controlled by L-type Ca2+ channels that are constitutively active at the adipocyte depolarized membrane potential. Pharmacological manipulation of L-type channel activity modulated both basal and catecholamine-stimulated lipolysis but not insulin-induced glucose uptake or lipogenesis. We conclude that white adipocytes have constitutively active L-type Ca2+ channels which explains their sensitivity of lipolysis to Ca2+ channel modulators. Our data suggest CaV1.2 as a potential novel therapeutic target in the treatment of obesity.

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Helena A Walz, Linda Härndahl, Nils Wierup, Emilia Zmuda-Trzebiatowska, Fredrik Svennelid, Vincent C Manganiello, Thorkil Ploug, Frank Sundler, Eva Degerman, Bo Ahrén and Lena Stenson Holst

Inadequate islet adaptation to insulin resistance leads to glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes. Here we investigate whether β-cell cAMP is crucial for islet adaptation and prevention of glucose intolerance in mice. Mice with a β-cell-specific, 2-fold overexpression of the cAMP-degrading enzyme phosphodiesterase 3B (RIP-PDE3B/2 mice) were metabolically challenged with a high-fat diet. We found that RIP-PDE3B/2 mice early and rapidly develop glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, as compared with wild-type littermates, after 2 months of high-fat feeding. This was evident from advanced fasting hyperinsulinemia and early development of hyper-glycemia, in spite of hyperinsulinemia, as well as impaired capacity of insulin to suppress plasma glucose in an insulin tolerance test. In vitro analyses of insulin-stimulated lipogenesis in adipocytes and glucose uptake in skeletal muscle did not reveal reduced insulin sensitivity in these tissues. Significant steatosis was noted in livers from high-fat-fed wild-type and RIP-PDE3B/2 mice and liver triacyl-glycerol content was 3-fold higher than in wild-type mice fed a control diet. Histochemical analysis revealed severe islet perturbations, such as centrally located α-cells and reduced immunostaining for insulin and GLUT2 in islets from RIP-PDE3B/2 mice. Additionally, in vitro experiments revealed that the insulin secretory response to glucagon-like peptide-1 stimulation was markedly reduced in islets from high-fat-fed RIP-PDE3B/2 mice. We conclude that accurate regulation of β-cell cAMP is necessary for adequate islet adaptation to a perturbed metabolic environment and protective for the development of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

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Tianru Jin

The proglucagon gene (gcg) encodes a number of peptide hormones that are of cell-type specifically expressed in the pancreatic islets, the distal ileum and the large intestine, as well as certain brain neuronal cells. These hormones are important in controlling blood glucose homeostasis, intestinal cell proliferation, and satiety. More importantly, the major hormone generated in the pancreas (i.e. glucagon) exerts opposite effects to the ones that are produced in the intestines (i.e. glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and GLP-2). To understand the mechanisms underlying cell-type-specific gcg expression may lead to the identification of novel drug targets to control endogenous hormone production for therapeutic purposes. Extensive in vitro examinations have shown that more than a half dozen of homeodomain (HD) proteins are able to interact with the gcg gene promoter and activate its expression. In vivo ‘knock-out’ mouse studies, however, cannot demonstrate the role of some of them (i.e. Cdx-2, Brn-4, and Nkx6.2) in the development of pancreatic islet α-cells, suggesting that these HD proteins may exert some redundant functions in the genesis of gcg-producing cells. Investigations have also revealed that gcg expression is controlled by both protein kinase A and Epac signaling pathways in response to cAMP elevation, and cell-type specifically controlled by insulin and the effectors of the Wnt signaling pathway. This review summarizes our current understanding on the mechanisms underlying gcg transcription and presented my interpretations on how the interactions between different signaling networks regulate gcg expression.