Stimulus-Secretion Coupling in Beta-Cells: From Basic to Bedside

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1131:943-963. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-12457-1_37.


Insulin secretion in humans is usually induced by mixed meals, which upon ingestion, increase the plasma concentration of glucose, fatty acids, amino acids, and incretins like glucagon-like peptide 1. Beta-cells can stay in the off-mode, ready-mode or on-mode; the mode-switching being determined by the open state probability of the ATP-sensitive potassium channels, and the activity of enzymes like glucokinase, and glutamate dehydrogenase. Mitochondrial metabolism is critical for insulin secretion. A sound understanding of the intermediary metabolism, electrophysiology, and cell signaling is essential for comprehension of the entire spectrum of the stimulus-secretion coupling. Depolarization brought about by inhibition of the ATP sensitive potassium channel, together with the inward depolarizing currents through the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, leads to electrical activities, opening of the voltage-gated calcium channels, and exocytosis of insulin. Calcium- and cAMP-signaling elicited by depolarization, and activation of G-protein-coupled receptors, including the free fatty acid receptors, are intricately connected in the form of networks at different levels. Activation of the glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor augments insulin secretion by amplifying calcium signals by calcium induced calcium release (CICR). In the treatment of type 2 diabetes, use of the sulfonylureas that act on the ATP sensitive potassium channel, damages the beta cells, which eventually fail; these drugs do not improve the cardiovascular outcomes. In contrast, drugs acting through the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor protect the beta-cells, and improve cardiovascular outcomes. The use of the glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists is increasing and that of sulfonylurea is decreasing. A better understanding of the stimulus-secretion coupling may lead to the discovery of other molecular targets for development of drugs for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Keywords: ATP-sensitive potassium channel; Beta-cells; Calcium induced calcium release; Glucagon-like peptide-1; Glucokinase; Glutamate dehydrogenase; Insulin secretion; Islets of Langerhans; Mitochondria and insulin secretion; Stimulus-secretion coupling; Transient receptor potential channels and insulin secretion; Type 2 diabetes; Voltage-gated calcium channels and insulin secretion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / physiopathology
  • Glucose
  • Humans
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells* / enzymology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells* / pathology


  • Insulin
  • Glucose
  • Calcium