GLP-1 metabolite GLP-1(9-36) is a systemic inhibitor of mouse and human pancreatic islet glucagon secretion

Diabetologia. 2024 Mar;67(3):528-546. doi: 10.1007/s00125-023-06060-w. Epub 2023 Dec 21.


Aims/hypothesis: Diabetes mellitus is associated with impaired insulin secretion, often aggravated by oversecretion of glucagon. Therapeutic interventions should ideally correct both defects. Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) has this capability but exactly how it exerts its glucagonostatic effect remains obscure. Following its release GLP-1 is rapidly degraded from GLP-1(7-36) to GLP-1(9-36). We hypothesised that the metabolite GLP-1(9-36) (previously believed to be biologically inactive) exerts a direct inhibitory effect on glucagon secretion and that this mechanism becomes impaired in diabetes.

Methods: We used a combination of glucagon secretion measurements in mouse and human islets (including islets from donors with type 2 diabetes), total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy imaging of secretory granule dynamics, recordings of cytoplasmic Ca2+ and measurements of protein kinase A activity, immunocytochemistry, in vivo physiology and GTP-binding protein dissociation studies to explore how GLP-1 exerts its inhibitory effect on glucagon secretion and the role of the metabolite GLP-1(9-36).

Results: GLP-1(7-36) inhibited glucagon secretion in isolated islets with an IC50 of 2.5 pmol/l. The effect was particularly strong at low glucose concentrations. The degradation product GLP-1(9-36) shared this capacity. GLP-1(9-36) retained its glucagonostatic effects after genetic/pharmacological inactivation of the GLP-1 receptor. GLP-1(9-36) also potently inhibited glucagon secretion evoked by β-adrenergic stimulation, amino acids and membrane depolarisation. In islet alpha cells, GLP-1(9-36) led to inhibition of Ca2+ entry via voltage-gated Ca2+ channels sensitive to ω-agatoxin, with consequential pertussis-toxin-sensitive depletion of the docked pool of secretory granules, effects that were prevented by the glucagon receptor antagonists REMD2.59 and L-168049. The capacity of GLP-1(9-36) to inhibit glucagon secretion and reduce the number of docked granules was lost in alpha cells from human donors with type 2 diabetes. In vivo, high exogenous concentrations of GLP-1(9-36) (>100 pmol/l) resulted in a small (30%) lowering of circulating glucagon during insulin-induced hypoglycaemia. This effect was abolished by REMD2.59, which promptly increased circulating glucagon by >225% (adjusted for the change in plasma glucose) without affecting pancreatic glucagon content.

Conclusions/interpretation: We conclude that the GLP-1 metabolite GLP-1(9-36) is a systemic inhibitor of glucagon secretion. We propose that the increase in circulating glucagon observed following genetic/pharmacological inactivation of glucagon signalling in mice and in people with type 2 diabetes reflects the removal of GLP-1(9-36)'s glucagonostatic action.

Keywords: GLP-1; Glp1r; Glucagon; Glucagon receptor antagonist; Granule docking; Pancreatic alpha cell; Type 2 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / metabolism
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia* / metabolism
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans* / metabolism
  • Peptide Fragments*


  • Glucagon
  • glucagon-like peptide-1 (9-36)
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Insulin
  • Peptide Fragments