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10-11-2018 | Pathophysiology | Review | Article

The α-cell in diabetes mellitus

Journal:
Nature Reviews Endocrinology

Authors: Jesper Gromada, Pauline Chabosseau, Guy A. Rutter

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group UK

Abstract

Findings from the past 10 years have placed the glucagon-secreting pancreatic α-cell centre stage in the development of diabetes mellitus, a disease affecting almost one in every ten adults worldwide. Glucagon secretion is reduced in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, increasing the risk of insulin-induced hypoglycaemia, but is enhanced in type 2 diabetes mellitus, exacerbating the effects of diminished insulin release and action on blood levels of glucose. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying these changes is therefore an important goal. RNA sequencing reveals that, despite their opposing roles in the control of blood levels of glucose, α-cells and β-cells have remarkably similar patterns of gene expression. This similarity might explain the fairly facile interconversion between these cells and the ability of the α-cell compartment to serve as a source of new β-cells in models of extreme β-cell loss that mimic type 1 diabetes mellitus. Emerging data suggest that GABA might facilitate this interconversion, whereas the amino acid glutamine serves as a liver-derived factor to promote α-cell replication and maintenance of α-cell mass. Here, we survey these developments and their therapeutic implications for patients with diabetes mellitus.

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