Alpha cell dysfunction in type 1 diabetes

Peptides. 2018 Feb;100:54-60. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2017.12.001.


Type 1 diabetes is characterized by selective loss of beta cells and insulin secretion, which significantly impact glucose homeostasis. However, this progressive disease is also associated with dysfunction of the alpha cell component of the islet, which can exacerbate hyperglycemia due to paradoxical hyperglucagonemia or lead to severe hypoglycemia as a result of failed counterregulation. In this review, the physiology of alpha cell secretion and the potential mechanisms underlying alpha cell dysfunction in type 1 diabetes will be explored. Because type 1 diabetes is a progressive disease, a synthesized timeline of aberrant alpha cell function will be presented as an attempt to delineate the natural history of type 1 diabetes with respect to the alpha cell.

Keywords: Alpha cell; Glucagon; Hyperglycemia; Hypoglycemia; Type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells / pathology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology


  • Insulin
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose