Control of the Endocrine Pancreas by Gastrointestinal Peptides

  • Lesley C. Wilkes

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis concerns the mechanism through which enteral delivery of glucose results in a larger insulin response than an equivalent parenteral glucose load. Preliminary studies in which mice received a glucose solution either intragastrically or intraperitoneally confirmed this phenomenon. An important regulatory system in this respect is the entero-insular axis, through which insulin secretion is influenced by neural and endocrine communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the pancreatic islets of Langerhans.

Using an in vitro system involving static incubation of isolated (by collagenase digestion) islets of Langerhans, the effect of a variety of gastrointestinal peptides on the secretion of the four main islet hormones, namely insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide, was studied. The gastrointestinal peptides investigated in this study were the secretin family, comprising secretin, glucagon, gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), peptide histidine isoleucine (PHI) and growth hormone releasing factor (GRF). Gastrin releasing peptide (GRP) was also studied. The results showed that insulin release was stimulated by all peptides studied except PHI, glucagon release was stimulated by all peptides tested, except GRF which suppressed glucagon release, somatostatin release was stimulated by GIP and GRF but suppressed by VIP, PHI, glucagon and secretin, and PP release was stimulated by GIP and GRF, but suppressed by PHI.

The insulinotropic effect of GRP was investigated further. A perifusion system was used to examine the time-course of insulin release from isolated islets after stimulation with GRP. GRP was shown to be insulinotropic only in the presence of physiologically elevated glucose concentrations and both first and second phases of insulin release were augmented. There was no effect at sub-stimulatory or very high glucose concentrations. Studies using a cultured insulin-secreting islet cell line, the RINm5F cell line, were undertaken to elucidate the intracellular mechanism of action of GRP. This peptide did not enhance insulin release via an augmentation of glucose metabolism, or via the adenylate cyclase/cyclic AMP secondary messenger system. The pattern of changes of cytosolic free calcium in response to GRP, which involved both mobilization of intracellular stores and an influx of extracellular calcium, suggested the involvement of phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate breakdown as a mediator of the effect of GRP on insulin secretion.
Date of AwardOct 1988
Original languageEnglish


  • entero-insular axis
  • islet hormone release
  • secretin family of peptides
  • gastrin releasing peptide
  • RINn5F cell line

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