The role of blood vessels, endothelial cells, and vascular pericytes in insulin secretion and peripheral insulin action

Endocr Rev. 2010 Jun;31(3):343-63. doi: 10.1210/er.2009-0035. Epub 2010 Feb 17.


The pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes is intimately intertwined with the vasculature. Insulin must efficiently enter the bloodstream from pancreatic beta-cells, circulate throughout the body, and efficiently exit the bloodstream to reach target tissues and mediate its effects. Defects in the vasculature of pancreatic islets can lead to diabetic phenotypes. Similarly, insulin resistance is accompanied by defects in the vasculature of skeletal muscle, which ultimately reduce the ability of insulin and nutrients to reach myocytes. An underappreciated participant in these processes is the vascular pericyte. Pericytes, the smooth muscle-like cells lining the outsides of blood vessels throughout the body, have not been directly implicated in insulin secretion or peripheral insulin delivery. Here, we review the role of the vasculature in insulin secretion, islet function, and peripheral insulin delivery, and highlight a potential role for the vascular pericyte in these processes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blood Vessels / cytology
  • Blood Vessels / physiology*
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Islets of Langerhans / blood supply*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • Pericytes / cytology
  • Pericytes / physiology*


  • Insulin