Incretins, insulin secretion and Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Diabetologia. 2004 Mar;47(3):357-366. doi: 10.1007/s00125-004-1342-6. Epub 2004 Feb 13.


When glucose is taken orally, insulin secretion is stimulated much more than it is when glucose is infused intravenously so as to result in similar glucose concentrations. This effect, which is called the incretin effect and is estimated to be responsible for 50 to 70% of the insulin response to glucose, is caused mainly by the two intestinal insulin-stimulating hormones, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP). Their contributions have been confirmed in mimicry experiments, in experiments with antagonists of their actions, and in experiments where the genes encoding their receptors have been deleted. In patients with Type 2 diabetes, the incretin effect is either greatly impaired or absent, and it is assumed that this could contribute to the inability of these patients to adjust their insulin secretion to their needs. In studies of the mechanism of the impaired incretin effect in Type 2 diabetic patients, it has been found that the secretion of GIP is generally normal, whereas the secretion of GLP-1 is reduced, presumably as a consequence of the diabetic state. It might be of even greater importance that the effect of GLP-1 is preserved whereas the effect of GIP is severely impaired. The impaired GIP effect seems to have a genetic background, but could be aggravated by the diabetic state. The preserved effect of GLP-1 has inspired attempts to treat Type 2 diabetes with GLP-1 or analogues thereof, and intravenous GLP-1 administration has been shown to be able to near-normalize both fasting and postprandial glycaemic concentrations in the patients, perhaps because the treatment compensates for both the impaired secretion of GLP-1 and the impaired action of GIP. Several GLP-1 analogues are currently in clinical development and the reported results are, so far, encouraging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Gastric Inhibitory Polypeptide / physiology*
  • Glucagon / physiology*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Peptide Fragments / physiology*
  • Protein Precursors / physiology*


  • Insulin
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Protein Precursors
  • Gastric Inhibitory Polypeptide
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Glucagon