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J Endocrinol Invest. 2000 Apr;23(4):231-4.

Activin A stimulates insulin secretion in cultured human pancreatic islets.

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Department of Reproductive Medicine and Child Development, Section of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pisa, Italy.


Activin A is a dimeric glycoprotein showing a high sequence homology with transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) and playing autocrine/paracrine actions in reproductive tissues. However, since the synthesis of activin is ubiquitous it may have a role in regulating cell growth and differentiation in several tissues. Previous studies showed that activin A is expressed by insulin-positive B cells of human pancreatic islets, and women with gestational diabetes have higher serum activin A levels than healthy pregnant women at the same gestational age. The present study aimed to evaluate the effect of activin A on insulin secretion from cultured human pancreatic islets. With this purpose human pancreatic islets were incubated with varying concentrations of activin A (0.1 to 10.0 nM). In absence of glucose, activin A did not modify insulin secretion at the different concentrations used. In absence of activin A, 8.3 mM and 16.7 mM glucose significantly increased insulin secretion, with a dose-dependent pattern. In presence of a non stimulatory concentration of glucose (3.3 mM), activin A significantly increased insulin secretion starting from low concentration (0.1 nM). Furthermore, the addition of activin A to 8.3 mM and 16.7 mM glucose induced an additional effect of the dose-dependent glucose-mediated insulin secretion (p<0.001). The present data could support a role for activin A in human endocrine pancreas in modulating insulin response to different glucose concentrations.

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