Aims/hypothesis: Glucose and glucagon-like peptide-1 have been shown to activate extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase in beta cells. We examined the contributions of the small GTPases Rap and Ras and the serine-threonine kinases B-Raf and Raf-1 to the activation of these kinases in human islet cells.
Methods: The expression of Rap, Ras, B-Raf and Raf-1 in human islets was examined by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting. Human islets were incubated in glucose at concentrations of 2.5 and 15 mmol/l and were stimulated with 10 nmol/l glucagon-like peptide-1. The activation of ERK and Raf kinases was examined by phosphorylation-specific antibodies and immuno-complexed kinase assays. The activation of Rap and Ras was determined by pull-down assays. Stimulation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase was detected by immuno-complexed lipid kinase assays.
Results: Extracellular-regulated kinase and protein kinase B (a downstream target of phosphoinositide 3-kinase) were activated in islets stimulated with glucose and glucagon-like peptide-1. In these islets, the Rap-B-Raf signalling pathway was activated preferentially compared with Ras and Raf-1, and activated Rap and B-Raf mediated ERK stimulation in kinase assays in vitro. In addition, Rap rather than Ras mediated activation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase in islets stimulated with glucose and glucagon-like peptide-1.
Conclusions/interpretation: In human islet cells, glucose and glucagon-like peptide-1 activate the Rap and B-Raf signalling module, which mediates ERK activation in assays in vitro. Rap also activates phosphoinositide 3-kinase, delineating central roles for Rap and B-Raf as therapeutic targets for beta cell growth in diabetes mellitus.