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Pflugers Arch. 1997 Apr;433(6):699-704.

Regulation of pancreatic beta-cell electrical activity and insulin release by physiological amino acid concentrations.

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Departamento de Fisiología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Alicante, Spain.


The mutual enhancement of insulin release by glucose and amino acids is not clearly understood. In this study, the effects on electrical activity and insulin release of a mixture of amino acids and glucose at concentrations found in fed (aaFD) and fasted (aaFT) animals were determined using freshly isolated mouse islets. Islets perifused with aaFD mixture showed an oscillatory pattern of electrical activity at lower glucose concentrations (5 mmol/l) than in islets perifused with the aaFT mixture and with glucose (G) alone (10 mmol/l). The concentration/response curve for the fraction of time spent by the membrane potential in the active phase in aaFD-stimulated islets was found to be significantly shifted to the left and had a smaller slope than that for glucose-stimulated islets. Insulin release followed the same pattern. This resulted in a concentration/response curve for glucose that was closer to that recorded "in vivo". We have also found that four amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, alanine and arginine) are largely responsible for the observed effects and that there is a non-linear enhancement of insulin release as a consequence of the combined effect of amino acids and glucose. This effect was more pronounced in the second phase of insulin release and was dependent on intracellular Ca2+. These findings indicate that amino acids account for most of the left-ward shift in the concentration/response curve for glucose and that a reduction in the threshold for the glucose-induced oscillatory electrical activity response and in the generation of Ca2+ spikes accounts for the triggering of insulin release at lower glucose concentrations. Nevertheless, the effects on insulin release at high glucose concentrations cannot be explained solely by the increase in glucose-induced electrical activity.

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