Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia are both predictors for adverse outcome in critically ill patients. Hyperinsulinemia is induced by inflammatory stimuli as a relevant mechanism for glucose lowering in the critically ill. The incretine hormone GLP-1 was currently found to be induced by endotoxin, leading to insulin secretion and glucose lowering under inflammatory conditions in mice. Here, we describe GLP-1 secretion to be increased by a variety of inflammatory stimuli, including endotoxin, interleukin-1β (IL-1β), and IL-6. Although abrogation of IL-1 signaling proved insufficient to prevent endotoxin-dependent GLP-1 induction, this was abolished in the absence of IL-6 in respective knockout animals. Hence, we found endotoxin-dependent GLP-1 secretion to be mediated by an inflammatory cascade, with IL-6 being necessary and sufficient for GLP-1 induction. Functionally, augmentation of the GLP-1 system by pharmacological inhibition of DPP-4 caused hyperinsulinemia, suppression of glucagon release, and glucose lowering under endotoxic conditions, whereas inhibition of the GLP-1 receptor led to the opposite effect. Furthermore, total GLP-1 plasma levels were profoundly increased in 155 critically ill patients presenting to the intensive care unit (ICU) in comparison with 134 healthy control subjects. In the ICU cohort, GLP-1 plasma levels correlated with markers of inflammation and disease severity. Consequently, GLP-1 provides a novel link between the immune system and the gut with strong relevance for metabolic regulation in context of inflammation.
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