Size-related and size-unrelated functional heterogeneity among pancreatic islets

Life Sci. 2001 Oct 19;69(22):2627-39. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(01)01332-7.


Functional heterogeneity of pancreatic islets was systematically analyzed for the first time using freshly isolated single rat pancreatic islets. First, 60 islets were sequentially exposed to 3, 9.4, 15.6, and 24.1 mM glucose for 30 min each in incubation experiments: 36 (60%) responded in a concentration-dependent and 19 (32%) in an all-or-none manner, and 5 (8%) islets did not respond to high glucose. As a group, the larger the islet, the higher the beta cell glucose sensitivity. However, glucose-stimulated elevation of [Ca2+]i in the beta cell. insulin/glucagon ratio in the islet, and expression of glucose transporter 2, glucokinase, and pancreatic duodenal homeobox factor-1 in the beta cell were not significantly related to islet size. Second, 50 islets were stimulated with 16.7 mM glucose in perifusion. A biphasic insulin release was found in 39 (78%), and no or little first phase response in 11 (22%) islets, irrespective of the islet size. Nevertheless, when the response was plotted as a group, it was clearly biphasic. Islet size, insulin content and the amount of insulin release were positively correlated with each other. In conclusion, there are size-related and size-unrelated functional diversity among pancreatic islets. The reason for such heterogeneity remained to be determined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Glucokinase / biosynthesis
  • Glucose Transporter Type 2
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiology*
  • Male
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Perfusion
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Glucose Transporter Type 2
  • Insulin
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Glucagon
  • Glucokinase
  • Calcium