Context: Insulin resistance impacts virtually all tissues, including pancreatic β cells. Individuals with insulin resistance, but without diabetes, exhibit an increased islet size because of an elevated number of both β and α cells. Neogenesis from duct cells and transdifferentiation of α cells have been postulated to contribute to the β-cell compensatory response to insulin resistance.
Objective: Our objective was to explore parameters that could potentially predict altered islet morphology.
Methods: We investigated 16 nondiabetic subjects by a 2-hour hyperglycemic clamp to evaluate β-cell secretory function. We analyzed pancreas samples obtained during pancreatoduodenectomy in the same patients to examine glucagon and insulin double+ cells to assess islet morphology.
Results: Among all the functional in vivo parameters of insulin secretion that were explored (basal, first phase and total secretion, glucose sensitivity, arginine-stimulated insulin secretion), β-cell glucose sensitivity was unique in exhibiting a significant correlation with both islet size and α-β double+ islet cells.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that poor β-cell glucose sensitivity is linked to islet transdifferentiation, possibly from α cells to β cells, in an attempt to cope with higher demands for insulin secretion. Understanding the mechanism(s) that underlies the adaptive response of the islet cells to insulin resistance is a potential approach to design tools to enhance functional β-cell mass for diabetes therapy.