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In the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARH), two distinct neuronal cell types differentially modulate energy homeostasis: the proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and neuropeptide Y/agouti-related peptide (NPY/AgRP) neurons. NPY and AgRP are co-expressed in the same ARH neurons, and AgRP is the endogenous antagonist for the melanocortin (MC4) receptor, thus blocking the anorectic effects of the POMC peptide, α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone.

Todd L. Stincic, Martha A. Bosch, Avery C. Hunker, Barbara Juarez, ... Martin J. Kelly

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Genetic activation of α-cell glucokinase in mice causes enhanced glucose-suppression of glucagon secretion during normal and diabetic states

Varun Bahl, Catherine Lee May, Alanis Perez, Benjamin Glaser, Klaus H. Kaestner

Objective

While the molecular events controlling insulin secretion from β-cells have been documented in detail, the exact mechanisms governing glucagon release by α-cells are understood only partially. This is a critical knowledge gap, as the normal suppression of glucagon secretion by elevated glucose levels fails in type 2 diabetes (T2D) patients, contributing to hyperglycemia through stimulation of hepatic glucose production. A critical role of glycolytic flux in regulating glucagon secretion was supported by recent studies in which manipulation of the activity and expression of the glycolytic enzyme glucokinase altered the setpoint for glucose-suppression of glucagon secretion (GSGS). Given this precedent, we hypothesized that genetic activation of glucokinase specifically in α-cells would enhance GSGS and mitigate T2D hyperglucagonemia.

Methods

We derived an inducible, α-cell-specific glucokinase activating mutant mouse model (GckLoxPGck∗/LoxPGck∗Gcg-CreERT2; henceforth referred to as “α-mutGCK”) in which the wild-type glucokinase gene (GCK) is conditionally replaced with a glucokinase mutant allele containing the ins454A activating mutation (Gck∗), a mutation that increases the affinity of glucokinase for glucose by almost 7-fold. The effects of α-cell GCK activation on glucose homeostasis, hormone secretion, islet morphology, and islet numbers were assessed using both in vivo and ex vivo assays. Additionally, the effect of α-cell GCK activation on GSGS was investigated under diabetogenic conditions of high-fat diet (HFD) feeding that dysregulate glucagon secretion.

Results

Our study shows that α-mutGCK mice have enhanced GSGS in vivo and ex vivo, independent of alterations in insulin levels and secretion, islet hormone content, islet morphology, or islet number. α-mutGCK mice maintained on HFD displayed improvements in glucagonemia compared to controls, which developed the expected obesity, glucose intolerance, elevated fasting blood glucose, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperglucagonemia.

Conclusions

Using our novel α-cell specific activation of GCK mouse model, we have provided additional support to demonstrate that the glycolytic enzyme glucokinase is a key determinant in glucose sensing within α-cells to regulate glucagon secretion. Our results contribute to our fundamental understanding of α-cell biology by providing greater insight into the regulation of glucagon secretion through α-cell intrinsic mechanisms via glucokinase. Furthermore, our HFD results underscore the potential of glucokinase as a druggable target which, given the ongoing development of allosteric glucokinase activators (GKAs) for T2D treatment, could help mitigate hyperglucagonemia and potentially improve blood glucose homeostasis.

Genetic activation of α-cell glucokinase in mice causes enhanced glucose-suppression of glucagon secretion during normal and diabetic states

Varun Bahl, Catherine Lee May, Alanis Perez, Benjamin Glaser, Klaus H. Kaestner

Objective

While the molecular events controlling insulin secretion from β-cells have been documented in detail, the exact mechanisms governing glucagon release by α-cells are understood only partially. This is a critical knowledge gap, as the normal suppression of glucagon secretion by elevated glucose levels fails in type 2 diabetes (T2D) patients, contributing to hyperglycemia through stimulation of hepatic glucose production. A critical role of glycolytic flux in regulating glucagon secretion was supported by recent studies in which manipulation of the activity and expression of the glycolytic enzyme glucokinase altered the setpoint for glucose-suppression of glucagon secretion (GSGS). Given this precedent, we hypothesized that genetic activation of glucokinase specifically in α-cells would enhance GSGS and mitigate T2D hyperglucagonemia.

Methods

We derived an inducible, α-cell-specific glucokinase activating mutant mouse model (GckLoxPGck∗/LoxPGck∗Gcg-CreERT2; henceforth referred to as “α-mutGCK”) in which the wild-type glucokinase gene (GCK) is conditionally replaced with a glucokinase mutant allele containing the ins454A activating mutation (Gck∗), a mutation that increases the affinity of glucokinase for glucose by almost 7-fold. The effects of α-cell GCK activation on glucose homeostasis, hormone secretion, islet morphology, and islet numbers were assessed using both in vivo and ex vivo assays. Additionally, the effect of α-cell GCK activation on GSGS was investigated under diabetogenic conditions of high-fat diet (HFD) feeding that dysregulate glucagon secretion.

Results

Our study shows that α-mutGCK mice have enhanced GSGS in vivo and ex vivo, independent of alterations in insulin levels and secretion, islet hormone content, islet morphology, or islet number. α-mutGCK mice maintained on HFD displayed improvements in glucagonemia compared to controls, which developed the expected obesity, glucose intolerance, elevated fasting blood glucose, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperglucagonemia.

Conclusions

Using our novel α-cell specific activation of GCK mouse model, we have provided additional support to demonstrate that the glycolytic enzyme glucokinase is a key determinant in glucose sensing within α-cells to regulate glucagon secretion. Our results contribute to our fundamental understanding of α-cell biology by providing greater insight into the regulation of glucagon secretion through α-cell intrinsic mechanisms via glucokinase. Furthermore, our HFD results underscore the potential of glucokinase as a druggable target which, given the ongoing development of allosteric glucokinase activators (GKAs) for T2D treatment, could help mitigate hyperglucagonemia and potentially improve blood glucose homeostasis.

2020 impact factor: 7.4

The 60 Second Metabolist

In this section authors briefly report on their work recently published in Molecular Metabolism.

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