Biological actions and therapeutic potential of the glucagon-like peptides

Gastroenterology. 2002 Feb;122(2):531-44. doi: 10.1053/gast.2002.31068.


The glucagon-like peptides (GLP-1 and GLP-2) are proglucagon-derived peptides cosecreted from gut endocrine cells in response to nutrient ingestion. GLP-1 acts as an incretin to lower blood glucose via stimulation of insulin secretion from islet beta cells. GLP-1 also exerts actions independent of insulin secretion, including inhibition of gastric emptying and acid secretion, reduction in food ingestion and glucagon secretion, and stimulation of beta-cell proliferation. Administration of GLP-1 lowers blood glucose and reduces food intake in human subjects with type 2 diabetes. GLP-2 promotes nutrient absorption via expansion of the mucosal epithelium by stimulation of crypt cell proliferation and inhibition of apoptosis in the small intestine. GLP-2 also reduces epithelial permeability, and decreases meal-stimulated gastric acid secretion and gastrointestinal motility. Administration of GLP-2 in the setting of experimental intestinal injury is associated with reduced epithelial damage, decreased bacterial infection, and decreased mortality or gut injury in rodents with chemically induced enteritis, vascular-ischemia reperfusion injury, and dextran sulfate-induced colitis. GLP-2 also attenuates chemotherapy-induced mucositis via inhibition of drug-induced apoptosis in the small and large bowel. GLP-2 improves intestinal adaptation and nutrient absorption in rats after major small bowel resection, and in humans with short bowel syndrome. The actions of GLP-2 are mediated by a distinct GLP-2 receptor expressed on subsets of enteric nerves and enteroendocrine cells in the stomach and small and large intestine. The beneficial actions of GLP-1 and GLP-2 in preclinical and clinical studies of diabetes and intestinal disease, respectively, has fostered interest in the potential therapeutic use of these gut peptides. Nevertheless, the actions of the glucagon-like peptides are limited in duration by enzymatic inactivation via cleavage at the N-terminal penultimate alanine by dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DP IV). Hence, inhibitors of DP IV activity, or DP IV-resistant glucagon-like peptide analogues, may be alternative therapeutic approaches for treatment of human diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 2
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Intestinal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Peptides / physiology*
  • Peptides / therapeutic use*


  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 2
  • Peptides
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1