Dapagliflozin Does Not Directly Affect Human α or β Cells

Endocrinology. 2020 Aug 1;161(8):bqaa080. doi: 10.1210/endocr/bqaa080.


Selective inhibitors of sodium glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) are widely used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and act primarily to lower blood glucose by preventing glucose reabsorption in the kidney. However, it is controversial whether these agents also act on the pancreatic islet, specifically the α cell, to increase glucagon secretion. To determine the effects of SGLT2 on human islets, we analyzed SGLT2 expression and hormone secretion by human islets treated with the SGLT2 inhibitor dapagliflozin (DAPA) in vitro and in vivo. Compared to the human kidney, SLC5A2 transcript expression was 1600-fold lower in human islets and SGLT2 protein was not detected. In vitro, DAPA treatment had no effect on glucagon or insulin secretion by human islets at either high or low glucose concentrations. In mice bearing transplanted human islets, 1 and 4 weeks of DAPA treatment did not alter fasting blood glucose, human insulin, and total glucagon levels. Upon glucose stimulation, DAPA treatment led to lower blood glucose levels and proportionally lower human insulin levels, irrespective of treatment duration. In contrast, after glucose stimulation, total glucagon was increased after 1 week of DAPA treatment but normalized after 4 weeks of treatment. Furthermore, the human islet grafts showed no effects of DAPA treatment on hormone content, endocrine cell proliferation or apoptosis, or amyloid deposition. These data indicate that DAPA does not directly affect the human pancreatic islet, but rather suggest an indirect effect where lower blood glucose leads to reduced insulin secretion and a transient increase in glucagon secretion.

Keywords: diabetes; glucagon; insulin; islet.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells / drug effects*
  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Glucosides / pharmacology*
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Middle Aged
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Species Specificity
  • Young Adult


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Glucosides
  • Insulin
  • dapagliflozin
  • Glucagon