Elemental composition of secretory granules in pancreatic islets of Langerhans

Biophys J. 1993 Feb;64(2):525-32. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(93)81397-3.


We have characterized, by electron probe microanalysis, rapidly frozen cultured rat islets at the level of individual secretory granules. Elemental analysis of thin, dried cryosections showed that beta granules could be distinguished by high Zn, Ca, and S, whereas non-beta (mainly alpha) granules contained elevated P and Mg. Although a single granule type predominated in a particular cell, some rebel granules were found in A cells that had the compositional fingerprint of B cell granules. Zn, which was found in millimolar concentrations in B cell granules, was considered a marker for the insulin storage complex. The data indicate that non-B islet cells in the adult pancreas may produce insulin-containing organelles and that, when glucagon and insulin are coexpressed, these hormones are packaged in separate granules.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / chemistry
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / ultrastructure
  • Electron Probe Microanalysis
  • Elements
  • Frozen Sections
  • Islets of Langerhans / chemistry*
  • Islets of Langerhans / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Rats


  • Elements