Glucose and fatty acids synergistically and reversibly promote beta cell proliferation in rats

Diabetologia. 2017 May;60(5):879-888. doi: 10.1007/s00125-016-4197-8. Epub 2017 Jan 11.


Aims/hypothesis: The mechanisms underlying pancreatic islet mass expansion have attracted considerable interest as potential therapeutic targets to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. While several factors promoting beta cell proliferation have been identified, in the context of nutrient excess the roles of glucose or NEFA in relation to insulin resistance remain unclear. Here we tested the hypothesis that glucose and NEFA synergistically and reversibly promote beta cell proliferation in the context of nutrient-induced insulin resistance.

Methods: Using 72 h infusions of glucose (GLU) or the oleate-enriched lipid emulsion ClinOleic (CLI), singly or in combination, we assessed beta cell proliferation, islet mass and insulin sensitivity in male Lewis rats. The effects of nutrients and endogenous circulating factors were examined in isolated and transplanted islets. Reversibility was studied 3 and 6 days after the end of the infusion.

Results: GLU infusions modestly stimulated beta cell proliferation, CLI alone had no effect and GLU+CLI infusions markedly stimulated beta cell proliferation. Insulin sensitivity was equally decreased in GLU and GLU+CLI infusions. GLU+CLI infusions also stimulated beta cell proliferation in islets transplanted under the kidney capsule, albeit to a lesser extent compared with endogenous islets. Ex vivo, the combination of glucose and NEFA enhanced beta cell proliferation in rat and human islets independently from secreted insulin, and serum from GLU+CLI-infused rats potentiated the effect of glucose. Glucose tolerance, beta cell proliferation and islet mass were all restored to normal levels 6 days after termination of the infusion.

Conclusions/interpretation: Glucose and NEFA synergistically and reversibly promote beta cell proliferation in part via direct action on the beta cell and independently from secreted insulin.

Keywords: Animal; Insulin sensitivity and resistance; Islets; Metabolic physiology in vivo; Rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Drug Synergism
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Glucose / administration & dosage
  • Glucose / pharmacology*
  • Glucose Clamp Technique
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats


  • Fatty Acids
  • Glucose