Glucagon--Early breakthroughs and recent discoveries

Peptides. 2015 May;67:74-81. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2015.03.011. Epub 2015 Mar 23.


Glucagon was discovered in 1922 as a hyperglycemic factor in the pancreas. During its early history up to 1970, glucagon was shown to increase circulating glucose through stimulating glycogenolysis in the liver. It was also shown to be a constituent of islet non-β cells and to signal through G protein coupled receptors and cyclic AMP. Furthermore, its chemical characteristics, including amino acid sequence, and its processing from the preproglucagon gene had been established. During the modern research during the last 40 years, glucagon has been established as a key hormone in the regulation of glucose homeostasis, including a key role for the glucose counterregulation to hypoglycemia and for development of type 2 diabetes, and today glucagon is a potential target for treatment of the disease. Glucagon has also been shown to be a key factor beyond glucose control and involved in many processes. For the coming, future research, studies will be focused on α-cell biology beyond glucagon, hyperglucagonemia in other conditions than diabetes, its involvement in the regulation of body weight and energy expenditure and the potential of glucagon as a target for other diseases than type 2 diabetes, such as type 1 diabetes and obesity. This review summarizes the more than 90 years history of this important hormone as well as discusses potential future research regarding glucagon.

Keywords: Diabetes; Glucagon; Glucose; History.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Glucagon / history
  • Glucagon / physiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational


  • Glucagon
  • Glucose