Pancreatic glucagon signals postprandial satiety

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Fall 1990;14(3):323-38. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(05)80042-9.


The hypothesis that prandial increases in circulating pancreatic glucagon initiates an important peripheral satiety signal is reviewed. Glucagon administration at the beginning of meals reduces the size of test meals in animals and humans and reduces the size of spontaneous meals in rats. Exogenous glucagon may also interact synergistically with cholecystokinin to inhibit feeding. These appear to be satiety effects because they are behaviorally specific in rats and subjectively specific in humans. Glucagon's pharmacological satiety effect is complemented by compelling evidence for a necessary contribution of endogenous glucagon to the control of meal size: administration of glucagon antibodies increases both test and spontaneous meal size in rats. Under many, but not all, conditions exogenous glucagon's satiety effect appears to originate in the liver and to be relayed to the brain via hepatic vagal afferents. Analysis of the central processing of this signal, however, has barely begun. How glucagon changes are transduced into neural afferent signals also remains an open question. The only hypothesis that has been extensively tested is that stimulation of hepatic glucose production initiates the satiety signal, but this is neither convincingly supported nor clearly rejected by currently available data. It is also not yet clear whether glucagon contributes to some forms of obesity or has potential use as a therapeutic tool in the control of eating disorders. Of the several proposed controls of hunger and satiety, glucagon appears to be one of the most likely to be physiologically relevant. This encourages further analysis of its behavioral characteristics, its neural mechanisms, and its clinical potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glucagon / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Pancreas / physiology*
  • Satiety Response / physiology*


  • Glucagon