CRFR1 is expressed on pancreatic beta cells, promotes beta cell proliferation, and potentiates insulin secretion in a glucose-dependent manner

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan 12;107(2):912-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0913610107. Epub 2009 Dec 22.


Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), originally characterized as the principal neuroregulator of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, has broad central and peripheral distribution and actions. We demonstrate the presence of CRF receptor type 1 (CRFR1) on primary beta cells and show that activation of pancreatic CRFR1 promotes insulin secretion, thus contributing to the restoration of normoglycemic equilibrium. Stimulation of pancreatic CRFR1 initiates a cAMP response that promotes insulin secretion in vitro and in vivo and leads to the phosphorylation of cAMP response element binding and the induction of the expression of several immediate-early genes. Thus, the insulinotropic actions of pancreatic CRFR1 oppose the activation of CRFR1 on anterior pituitary corticotropes, leading to the release of glucocorticoids that functionally antagonize the actions of insulin. Stimulation of the MIN6 insulinoma line and primary rat islets with CRF also activates the MAPK signaling cascade leading to rapid phosphorylation of Erk1/2 in response to CRFR1-selective ligands, which induce proliferation in primary rat neonatal beta cells. Importantly, CRFR1 stimulates insulin secretion only during conditions of intermediate to high ambient glucose, and the CRFR1-dependent phosphorylation of Erk1/2 is greater with elevated glucose concentrations. This response is reminiscent of the actions of the incretins, which potentiate insulin secretion only during elevated glucose conditions. The presence of CRFR1 on beta cells adds another layer of complexity to the intricate network of paracrine and autocrine factors and their cognate receptors whose coordinated efforts can dictate islet hormone output and regulate beta cell proliferation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenalectomy
  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glucose / pharmacology*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology*
  • Insulinoma
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Postprandial Period
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / deficiency
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / genetics*


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Insulin
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • CRF receptor type 1
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • Glucose