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PLoS One. 2018 Dec 17;13(12):e0208998. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208998. eCollection 2018.

Exploring the insulin secretory properties of the PGD2-GPR44/DP2 axis in vitro and in a randomized phase-1 trial of type 2 diabetes patients.

Author information

Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolism, IMED Biotech Unit, AstraZeneca Gothenburg, Mölndal, Sweden.
Department of Endocrinology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
ProSciento Inc, Chula Vista, CA, United States of America.



GPR44 (DP2, PTGDR2, CRTh2) is the receptor for the pro-inflammatory mediator prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) and it is enriched in human islets. In rodent islets, PGD2 is produced in response to glucose, suggesting that the PGD2-GPR44/DP2 axis may play a role in human islet function during hyperglycemia. Consequently, the aim of this work was to elucidate the insulinotropic role of GPR44 antagonism in vitro in human beta-cells and in type 2 diabetes (T2DM) patients.


We determined the drive on PGD2 secretion by glucose and IL-1beta, as well as, the impact on insulin secretion by pharmacological GPR44/DP2 antagonism (AZD1981) in human islets and beta-cells in vitro. To test if metabolic control would be improved by antagonizing a hyperglycemia-driven increased PGD2 tone, we performed a proof-of-mechanism study in 20 T2DM patients (average 54 years, HbA1c 9.4%, BMI 31.6 kg/m2). The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study consisted of two three-day treatment periods (AZD1981 or placebo) separated by a three-day wash-out period. Mixed meal tolerance test (MMTT) and intravenous graded glucose infusion (GGI) was performed at start and end of each treatment period. Assessment of AZD1981 pharmacokinetics, glucose, insulin, C-peptide, glucagon, GLP-1, and PGD2 pathway biomarkers were performed.


We found (1) that PGD2 is produced in human islet in response to high glucose or IL-1beta, but likely by stellate cells rather than endocrine cells; (2) that PGD2 suppresses both glucose and GLP-1 induced insulin secretion in vitro; and (3) that the GPR44/DP2 antagonist (AZD1981) in human beta-cells normalizes insulin secretion. However, AZD1981 had no impact on neither glucose nor incretin dependent insulin secretion in humans (GGI AUC C-peptide 1-2h and MMTT AUC Glucose 0-4h LS mean ratios vs placebo of 0.94 (80% CI of 0.90-0.98, p = 0.12) and 0.99 (90% CI of 0.94-1.05, p = 0.45), despite reaching the expected antagonist exposure.


Pharmacological inhibition of the PGD2-GPR44/DP2 axis has no major impact on the modulation of acute insulin secretion in T2DM patients.


Conflict of interest statement

All authors apart from MH, LM and EW are employees or shareholders of AstraZeneca AB. MH, LM, and EW received funding as a contract research organization by AstraZeneca for the clinical study. EW is affiliated with ProSciento Inc. There are no patents, products in development, or marketed products to declare. This does not alter our adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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