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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1992 Dec 11;1113(3-4):295-305.

Cytoplasmic Ca2+ oscillations in pancreatic beta-cells.

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Department of Medical Cell Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden.


In the last 15 years it has been a growing interest in the cyclic variations of circulating insulin [46]. After the suggestion that this phenomenon may be due to oscillations of the beta-cell membrane potential [8,39], it was demonstrated that [Ca2+]i oscillates in the glucose-stimulated beta-cell with a similar frequency to that of pulsatile insulin release. The present review describes four types of [Ca2+]i oscillations in the pancreatic beta-cell. The slow sinusoidal oscillations, referred to as type-a, are those which most closely correspond to pulsatile insulin release. Although not affecting the properties of the type-a oscillations in individual beta-cells, the concentration of glucose is a determinant for their generation and further transformation into a sustained increase. Accordingly, cytoplasmic Ca2+ is regulated by sudden transitions between oscillatory and steady-state levels at threshold concentrations of glucose, which are characteristic for the individual beta-cell. This behaviour explains the observation of a gradual recruitment of previously non-secreting cells with increase of the extracellular glucose concentration [44]. However, it still remains to be elucidated how the sudden transitions between these three states translate into the co-ordinated slow oscillations of [Ca2+]i in the intact islet. Cyclic variations of circulating insulin require a synchronization of the [Ca2+]i cycles also among the islets in the pancreas. It is still an open question by which means the millions of islets communicate mutually to establish a pattern of pulsatile insulin release from the whole pancreas. The discovery that the beta-cell is not only the functional unit for insulin synthesis but also generates the [Ca2+]i oscillations required for pulsatile insulin release has both physiological and clinical implications. The fact that minor damage to the beta-cells prevents the type-a oscillations with maintenance of a glucose response in terms of raised [Ca2+]i reinforces previous arguments [54] that loss of insulin oscillations is an early indicator of type-2 diabetes. Further analyses of the [Ca2+]i oscillations in the beta-cells should include not only the mechanisms for their generation and subsequent propagation within or among the islets but also how modulation of their frequency affects the insulin sensitivity of various target cells. The latter approach may be important in the attempts to maintain normoglycemia under conditions minimizing the vascular effects of insulin supposed to precipitate hypertonia and atherosclerosis [70,71,77].

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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