The ability of glucose to stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreatic islets of Langerhans is enhanced by the intestinal hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which is secreted from the gut in response to nutrient ingestion. This action, called the incretin effect, accounts for as much as half of the postprandial insulin response and is exploited therapeutically for diabetes treatment through the use of incretin mimetic drugs and inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase 4, which degrades GLP-1. Despite a prominent role for incretin mimetics in diabetes treatment, several key questions remain about GLP-1–induced insulin secretion. Most studies have examined the effects of GLP-1 at concentrations several orders of magnitude higher than those found in vivo; therefore, one might question the physiological (and perhaps even pharmacological) relevance of pathways identified in these studies and whether other important mechanisms might have been obscured. In this issue of the JCI, Shigeto and colleagues demonstrate that physiological GLP-1 does indeed amplify the insulin secretory response. Intriguingly, while much of this response is PKA dependent, as might be expected, the use of picomolar GLP-1 reveals a new and important mechanism that contributes to GLP-1–induced insulin secretion.
Jelena Kolic, Patrick E. MacDonald