Do functional linkages between islet endocrine cells exist? The effect of differences in frequency and distribution of islet endocrine cells on B cell function was examined in islets from the ventral (ventral islets) and dorsal (dorsal islets) areas of the rat pancreas. Dorsal islets contained 10 times as much glucagon as ventral islets, whereas insulin and total protein contents were similar. Basal rates of insulin secretion and proinsulin biosynthesis were similar in the two types of islet, but, under conditions of glucose stimulation, both insulin secretion and proinsulin biosynthesis were significantly greater in the glucagon-rich dorsal islets. Similarly, glucose utilization rates an ATP levels were greater in dorsal islets. In contrast, the rates of processing of newly synthesized proinsulin were similar in ventral and dorsal islets. That the islet glucagon content may have affected B cell function is inferred from two independent findings. Firstly, basal and glucose-stimulated cyclic AMP contents of glucagon-rich dorsal islets were greater than those of ventral islets. Secondly, in the presence of excess exogenous glucagon (1 microgram/ml), the differences in glucose-induced insulin secretion and proinsulin biosynthesis rates between the two types of islets were eliminated. These results strongly suggest that changes in the relative proportions of the different islet endocrine cells exert marked effects on islet function. In particular, a greater A cell and glucagon content is associated with higher rates of glucose-induced insulin secretion and biosynthesis.
E R Trimble, P A Halban, C B Wollheim, A E Renold