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Diabetes Obes Metab. 2011 Oct;13(10):903-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2011.01422.x.

Cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists stimulate insulin secretion from isolated human islets of Langerhans.

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Diabetes Research Group, Division of Diabetes & Nutritional Sciences, King's College London, London, UK.



The role of cannabinoid receptors in human islets of Langerhans has not been investigated in any detail, so the current study examined CB1 and CB2 receptor expression by human islets and the effects of pharmacological cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists on insulin secretion.


Human islets were isolated from pancreases retrieved from heart-beating organ donors. Messenger RNAs encoding human CB1 and CB2 receptors were amplified from human islet RNA by RT-PCR and receptor localization within islets was identified by immunohistochemistry. Dynamic insulin secretion from human islets perifused with buffers supplemented with CB1 and CB2 receptor agonists and antagonists was quantified by radioimmunoassay.


RT-PCR showed that both CB1 and CB2 receptors are expressed by human islets and immunohistochemistry indicated that receptor expression co-localized with insulin-expressing β-cells. Perifusion experiments using isolated human islets showed that insulin secretion was reversibly stimulated by both CB1 and CB2 receptor agonists, with CB1 receptor activation associated with increased basal secretion whereas CB2 receptors were coupled to initiation and potentiation of insulin secretion. Antagonists at CB1 (N-(Piperidin-1-yl)-5-(4-iodophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxamide) and CB2 (N-(1,3-Benzodioxol-5-ylmethyl)-1,2-dihydro-7-methoxy-2-oxo-8-(pentyloxy)-3-quinoline carboxamide) receptors failed to inhibit the stimulatory effects of the respective agonists and, unexpectedly, reversibly stimulated insulin secretion.


These data confirm the expression of CB1 and CB2 receptors by human islets and indicate that both receptor subtypes are coupled to the stimulation of insulin secretion. They also implicate involvement of CB1/2 receptor-independent pathways in the antagonist-induced stimulatory effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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