Regulation of insulin secretion and reactive oxygen species production by free fatty acids in pancreatic islets

Islets. Sep-Oct 2011;3(5):213-23. doi: 10.4161/isl.3.5.15935. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


Free fatty acids regulate insulin secretion through metabolic and intracellular signaling mechanisms such as induction of malonyl-CoA/long-chain CoA pathway, production of lipids, GPRs (G protein-coupled receptors) activation and the modulation of calcium currents. Fatty acids (FA) are also important inducers of ROS (reactive oxygen species) production in β-cells. Production of ROS for short periods is associated with an increase in GSIS (glucose-stimulated insulin secretion), but excessive or sustained production of ROS is negatively correlated with the insulin secretory process. Several mechanisms for FA modulation of ROS production by pancreatic β-cells have been proposed, such as the control of mitochondrial complexes and electron transport, induction of uncoupling proteins, NADPH oxidase activation, interaction with the renin-angiotensin system, and modulation of the antioxidant defense system. The major sites of superoxide production within mitochondria derive from complexes I and III. The amphiphilic nature of FA favors their incorporation into mitochondrial membranes, altering the membrane fluidity and facilitating the electron leak. The extra-mitochondrial ROS production induced by FA through the NADPH oxidase complex is also an important source of these species in β-cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Reactive Oxygen Species