Coupling of metabolic, second messenger pathways and insulin granule dynamics in pancreatic beta-cells: a computational analysis

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2011 Nov;107(2):293-303. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2011.09.001. Epub 2011 Sep 8.


Insulin secretory responses to nutrient stimuli and hormonal modulators in pancreatic beta-cells are controlled by a variety of secondary messengers. We have analyzed numerous mechanisms responsible for regulated exocytosis in these cells and present an integrated mathematical model of cytosolic Ca²⁺, cAMP and granule dynamics. The insulin-containing granules in the beta-cell were divided into four classes: a large "reserve" granule pool, a smaller pool of the morphologically docked granules that is chemically 'primed' for release or the "readily releasable pool", and a pool of "restless newcomer granules" that undergoes preferential exocytosis. The model incorporates glucose and other aspects of metabolism, the cAMP amplifying pathway, insulin granule dynamics and the exocyst concept for granule binding. The values of most of the model parameters were inferred from available experimental data. The model can generate both the fast first phase and slow biphasic insulin secretion found experimentally in response to a step increase of membrane potential or of glucose. The numerical simulations have also reproduced a variety of experimental conditions, such as periodic stimulation by high K⁺ and the potentiation induced in islets by pre-incubation with cAMP pathway activators. The explicit incorporation of Ca²⁺ channels, Ca²⁺ and cAMP dynamics allows the model to be further connected to current models for calcium and metabolic dynamics and provides an interpretation of the roles of the triggering and amplifying pathways of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. The model may be important in the identification of pharmacological targets for improving insulin secretion in type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Second Messenger Systems*
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism*


  • Insulin
  • Glucose