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J Mol Endocrinol. 2013 Apr 12;50(3):325-36. doi: 10.1530/JME-12-0186. Print 2013 Jun.

Effect of GLP1R agonists taspoglutide and liraglutide on primary thyroid C-cells from rodent and man.

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F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., Non Clinical Safety, Grenzacherstrasse 124, 4070 Basel, Switzerland.


Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1) analogs have been associated with an increased incidence of thyroid C-cell hyperplasia and tumors in rodents. This effect may be due to a GLP1 receptor (GLP1R)-dependent mechanism. As the expression of GLP1R is much lower in primates than in rodents, the described C-cell proliferative lesions may not be relevant to man. Here, we aimed to establish primary thyroid cell cultures of rat and human to evaluate the expression and function of GLP1R in C-cells. In our experiments, GLP1R expression was observed in primary rat C-cells (in situ hybridization) but was not detected in primary human C-cells (mRNA and protein levels). The functional response of the cultures to the stimulation with GLP1R agonists is an indirect measure of the presence of functional receptor. Liraglutide and taspoglutide elicited a modest increase in calcitonin release and in calcitonin expression in rat primary thyroid cultures. Contrarily, no functional response to GLP1R agonists was observed in human thyroid cultures, despite the presence of few calcitonin-positive C-cells. Thus, the lack of functional response of the human cultures adds to the weight of evidence indicating that healthy human C-cells have very low levels or completely lack GLP1R. In summary, our results support the hypothesis that the GLP1R agonist-induced C-cell responses in rodents may not be relevant to primates. In addition, the established cell culture method represents a useful tool to study the physiological and/or pathological roles of GLP1 and GLP1R agonists on normal, non-transformed primary C-cells from rats and man.

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