The second-generation antipsychotic drug aripiprazole modulates the serotonergic system in pancreatic islets and induces beta cell dysfunction in female mice

Diabetologia. 2022 Mar;65(3):490-505. doi: 10.1007/s00125-021-05630-0. Epub 2021 Dec 21.


Aims/hypothesis: Second-generation antipsychotic (SGA) drugs have been associated with the development of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome in patients with schizophrenia. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of two different SGA drugs, olanzapine and aripiprazole, on metabolic state and islet function and plasticity.

Methods: We analysed the functional adaptation of beta cells in 12-week-old B6;129 female mice fed an olanzapine- or aripiprazole-supplemented diet (5.5-6.0 mg kg-1 day-1) for 6 months. Glucose and insulin tolerance tests, in vivo glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and indirect calorimetry were performed at the end of the study. The effects of SGAs on beta cell plasticity and islet serotonin levels were assessed by transcriptomic analysis and immunofluorescence. Insulin secretion was assessed by static incubations and Ca2+ fluxes by imaging techniques.

Results: Treatment of female mice with olanzapine or aripiprazole for 6 months induced weight gain (p<0.01 and p<0.05, respectively), glucose intolerance (p<0.01) and impaired insulin secretion (p<0.05) vs mice fed a control chow diet. Aripiprazole, but not olanzapine, induced serotonin production in beta cells vs controls, likely by increasing tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (TPH1) expression, and inhibited Ca2+ flux. Of note, aripiprazole increased beta cell size (p<0.05) and mass (p<0.01) vs mice fed a control chow diet, along with activation of mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1)/S6 signalling, without preventing beta cell dysfunction.

Conclusions/interpretation: Both SGAs induced weight gain and beta cell dysfunction, leading to glucose intolerance; however, aripiprazole had a more potent effect in terms of metabolic alterations, which was likely a result of its ability to modulate the serotonergic system. The deleterious metabolic effects of SGAs on islet function should be considered while treating patients as these drugs may increase the risk for development of the metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Keywords: Beta cell dysfunction; Beta cell mass; Insulin secretion; Islets; Schizophrenia; Second-generation antipsychotics; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Aripiprazole / metabolism
  • Aripiprazole / pharmacology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Olanzapine / adverse effects
  • Olanzapine / metabolism


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Aripiprazole
  • Olanzapine