Background & aims: Glucagon action in the liver is essential for control of glucose homeostasis and the counterregulatory response to hypoglycemia. Because receptors for the related peptides glucagon-like peptide-1 and glucagon-like peptide-2 regulate beta-cell and enterocyte apoptosis, respectively, we examined whether glucagon receptor (Gcgr) signaling modulates hepatocyte survival.
Methods: The importance of the Gcgr for hepatocyte cell survival was examined using Gcgr+/+ and Gcgr-/- mice in vivo, and murine hepatocyte cultures in vitro.
Results: Gcgr-/- mice showed enhanced susceptibility to experimental liver injury induced by either Fas Ligord activation or a methionine- and choline-deficient diet. Restoration of hepatic Gcgr expression in Gcgr-/- mice attenuated the development of hepatocellular injury. Furthermore, exogenous glucagon administration reduced Jo2-induced apoptosis in wild-type mice and decreased caspase activation in fibroblasts expressing a heterologous Gcgr and in primary murine hepatocyte cultures. The anti-apoptotic actions of glucagon were independent of protein kinase A, phosphatidylinositol-3K, and mitogen-activated protein kinase, and were mimicked by the exchange protein directly activated by the cyclic AMP agonist 8-(4-chloro-phenylthio)-2'-O-methyladenosine-3', 5'-cyclic monophosphate-cAMP.
Conclusions: These findings extend the essential actions of the Gcgr beyond the metabolic control of glucose homeostasis to encompass the regulation of hepatocyte survival.