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Hormones such as glucagon are secreted by Ca(2+)-induced exocytosis of large dense-core vesicles, but the mechanisms involved have only been partially elucidated. Studies of pancreatic beta-cells secreting insulin revealed that synaptotagmin-7 alone is not sufficient to mediate Ca(2+)-dependent insulin granule exocytosis, and studies of chromaffin cells secreting neuropeptides and catecholamines showed that synaptotagmin-1 and -7 collaborate as Ca(2+) sensors for exocytosis, and that both are equally involved. As no other peptide secretion was analysed, it remains unclear whether synaptotagmins generally act as Ca(2+) sensors in large dense-core vesicle exocytosis in endocrine cells, and if so, whether synaptotagmin-7 always functions with a partner in that role. In particular, far less is known about the mechanisms underlying Ca(2+)-triggered glucagon release from alpha-cells than insulin secretion from beta-cells, even though insulin and glucagon together regulate blood glucose levels. To address these issues, we analysed the role of synaptotagmins in Ca(2+)-triggered glucagon exocytosis. Surprisingly, we find that deletion of a single synaptotagmin isoform, synaptotagmin-7, nearly abolished Ca(2+)-triggered glucagon secretion. Moreover, single-cell capacitance measurements confirmed that pancreatic alpha-cells lacking synaptotagmin-7 exhibited little Ca(2+)-induced exocytosis, whereas all other physiological and morphological parameters of the alpha-cells were normal. Our data thus identify synaptotagmin-7 as a principal Ca(2+) sensor for glucagon secretion, and support the notion that synaptotagmins perform a universal but selective function as individually acting Ca(2+) sensors in neurotransmitter, neuropeptide, and hormone secretion.

Original publication




Journal article


J Physiol

Publication Date





1169 - 1178


Action Potentials, Animals, Blood Glucose, Calcium Channels, Exocytosis, Gene Expression, Glucagon, Glucagon-Secreting Cells, Hypoglycemia, Insulin, Intracellular Calcium-Sensing Proteins, Islets of Langerhans, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred Strains, Mice, Knockout, Synaptotagmins, omega-Conotoxins