G-protein coupled receptors mediating long chain fatty acid signalling in the pancreatic beta-cell

Biochem Pharmacol. 2009 Dec 15;78(12):1419-27. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2009.07.020. Epub 2009 Aug 4.


It is increasingly clear that some of the effects of both free and derivatised long chain fatty acids in pancreatic beta-cells are mediated by a group of G-protein coupled receptors. Some of these display close structural homology while others are more divergent. This Commentary reviews the expression and functional roles of three such molecules, GPR40, GPR119 and GPR120. GPR40 is the best characterised of this group and appears to mediate the acute stimulatory effects of long chain fatty acids on insulin secretion. GPR40 has also been proposed as a potential mediator of fatty acid toxicity but this is more controversial. GPR119 is also involved in stimulation of insulin secretion and responds primarily to ethanolamide derivatives of long chain fatty acids and also to some lysophospholipids rather than to free fatty acids. It may represent a useful target for the development of new insulin secretagogues aimed to enhance insulin release in patients with type 2 diabetes. GPR120 is the most enigmatic of the lipid-responsive cell-surface receptors and its function remains to be established. It has been proposed to play a cytoprotective role in certain other cell types but it is unclear whether it fulfils a similar function in beta-cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Substrate Specificity


  • FFAR1 protein, human
  • FFAR4 protein, human
  • Fatty Acids
  • GPR119 protein, human
  • Insulin
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled