In vivo synchronous membrane potential oscillations in mouse pancreatic beta-cells: lack of co-ordination between islets

J Physiol. 1996 May 15;493 ( Pt 1)(Pt 1):9-18. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1996.sp021361.


1. The properties of the oscillations in electrical activity of different beta-cells within the same islet of Langerhans, and of different islets within the same pancreas, recorded in vivo, are described. 2. Simultaneous recordings of two cells within the same islet showed that the oscillations were synchronous. A rapid increase in blood glucose led to the simultaneous appearance of a transitory phase of continuous electrical activity in both cells. These results indicate that under physiological conditions, the islets operate as a functional syncytium. 3. Simultaneous recordings of cells from two different islets within the same pancreas showed that the oscillations in the electrical activity were not synchronous, which suggests that each islet is a functionally independent unit. Rapid changes in blood glucose led to the appearance of a transitory phase of increased electrical activity in both islets, although of different duration. These results suggest that the endocrine pancreas lacks a pacemaker driving the electrical activity of all the islets. 4. The comparison of the degree of activation of different islets, simultaneously recorded at different glucose concentrations, indicated that all the islets had a similar sensitivity to glucose. Furthermore, when the glucose concentration was increased, the electrical activity in both islets increased in parallel, suggesting that the amount of insulin released due to the increase in glycaemia was produced by the simultaneous response of all the islets and not by the recruitment of islets with different sensitivities to glucose. 5. Our results predict that the synchronous electrical activity of all the cells within an islet will result in widespread intracellular calcium oscillations and pulsatile insulin secretion. The periodicity of the pulses of insulin secretion in different islets is suggested to be of slightly different length and asynchronous.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Electrophysiology
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin