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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 28;9(2):e90093. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090093. eCollection 2014.

Chronic exposure to GLP-1 increases GLP-1 synthesis and release in a pancreatic alpha cell line (α-TC1): evidence of a direct effect of GLP-1 on pancreatic alpha cells.

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Department of Clinical and Molecular BioMedicine, University of Catania, Garibaldi-Nesima Hospital, Catania, Italy.
Endocrinology, Department of Health Sciences, University Magna Graecia of Catanzaro, Catanzaro, Italy.



Incretin therapies, which are used to treat diabetic patients, cause a chronic supra-physiological increase in GLP-1 circulating levels. It is still unclear how the resulting high hormone concentrations may affect pancreatic alpha cells. The present study was designed to investigate the effects of chronic exposure to high GLP-1 levels on a cultured pancreatic alpha cell line.


α-TC1-6 cell line was cultured in the presence or absence of GLP-1 (100 nmol/l) for up to 72 h. In our model GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R) was measured. After the cells were exposed to GLP-1 the levels of glucagon secretion were measured. Because GLP-1 acts on intracellular cAMP production, the function of GLP-1R was studied. We also investigated the effects of chronic GLP-1 exposure on the cAMP/MAPK pathway, Pax6 levels, the expression of prohormone convertases (PCs), glucagon gene (Gcg) and protein expression, glucagon and GLP-1 production.


In our model, we were able to detect GLP-1R. After GLP-1 exposure we found a reduction in glucagon secretion. During further investigation of the function of GLP-1R, we found an activation of the cAMP/MAPK/Pax6 pathway and an increase of Gcg gene and protein expression. Furthermore we observed a significant increase in PC1/3 protein expression, GLP-1 intracellular content and GLP-1 secretion.


Our data indicate that the chronic exposure of pancreatic alpha cells to GLP-1 increases the ability of these cells to produce and release GLP-1. This phenomenon occurs through the stimulation of the transcription factor Pax6 and the increased expression of the protein convertase PC1/3.

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