GPR39 receptors and actions of trace metals on pancreatic beta cell function and glucose homoeostasis

Acta Diabetol. 2016 Apr;53(2):279-93. doi: 10.1007/s00592-015-0781-5. Epub 2015 Jun 27.


Aims: G-protein-coupled receptor 39 (GPR39) has been implicated in glucose homoeostasis, appetite control and gastrointestinal tract function.

Methods: This study used clonal BRIN-BD11 cells and mouse pancreatic islets to assess the insulin-releasing actions of trace metals believed to act via GPR39, and the second messenger pathways involved in mediating their effects. Micromolar concentrations of Zn(2+), Cu(2+), Ni(2+) and Co(2+) were examined under normoglycaemic and hyperglycaemic conditions. Mechanistic studies investigated changes of intracellular Ca(2+), cAMP generation and assessment of cytotoxicity by LDH release. Cellular localisation of GPR39 was determined by double immunohistochemical staining.

Results: All trace metals (7.8-500 µmol/l) stimulated insulin release with Cu(2+) being the most potent in isolated islets, with an EC50 value of 87 μmol/l. Zn(2+) was the most selective with an EC50 value of 125 μmol/l. Enhancement of insulin secretion was also observed with Ni(2+) (179 μmol/l) and Co(2+) (190 μmol/l). These insulin-releasing effects were confirmed using clonal BRIN-BD11 cells which exhibited enhanced intracellular Ca(2+) (p < 0.05-p < 0.001) and cAMP generation (p < 0.05-p < 0.001) in response to trace metals. Oral administration of Zn(2+), Ni(2+) and Cu(2+) (50 µmol/kg together with 18 mmol/kg glucose) decreased the glycaemic excursion (p < 0.05-p < 0.01) and augmented insulin secretion (p < 0.05-p < 0.01) in NIH Swiss mice.

Conclusions: This study has demonstrated the presence of GPR39 and the insulinotropic actions of trace metals on BRIN-BD11 cells and pancreatic beta cells, together with their antihyperglycaemic actions in vivo. These data suggest that development of agonists capable of specifically activating GPR39 may be a useful new therapeutic approach for diabetes management.

Keywords: G-protein-coupled receptor 39; Glucose tolerance; Insulin secretion; Pancreatic beta cells; Trace metals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Intolerance / blood
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Hyperglycemia / blood
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*
  • Trace Elements / pharmacology*


  • GPR39 protein, mouse
  • Insulin
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Trace Elements
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Glucose
  • Calcium