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During pregnancy the maternal pancreatic islets of Langerhans undergo adaptive changes to compensate for gestational insulin resistance. The lactogenic hormones are well established to play a key role in regulating the islet adaptation to pregnancy, and one of the mechanisms through which they act is through upregulating β-cell serotonin production. During pregnancy islet serotonin levels are significantly elevated, where it is released from the β-cells to drive the adaptive response through paracrine and autocrine effects. We have previously shown that placental kisspeptin (KP) also plays a role in promoting the elevated insulin secretion and β-cell proliferation observed during pregnancy, although the precise mechanisms involved are unclear. In the present study we investigated the effects of KP on expression of pro-proliferative genes and serotonin biosynthesis within rodent islets. Whilst KP had limited effect on pro-proliferative gene expression at the time points tested, KP did significantly stimulate expression of the serotonin biosynthesis enzyme Tph-1. Furthermore, the islets of pregnant β-cell-specific GPR54 knockdown mice were found to contain significantly fewer serotonin-positive β-cells when compared to pregnant controls. Our previous studies suggested that reduced placental kisspeptin production, with consequent impaired kisspeptin-dependent β-cell compensation, may be a factor in the development of GDM in humans. These current data suggest that, similar to the lactogenic hormones, KP may also contribute to serotonin biosynthesis and subsequent islet signalling during pregnancy. Furthermore, upregulation of serotonin biosynthesis may represent a common mechanism through which multiple signals might influence the islet adaptation to pregnancy.

Original publication




Journal article


J Endocrinol

Publication Date





insulin, islets, kisspeptin, pregnancy, serotonin, Humans, Pregnancy, Mice, Female, Animals, Kisspeptins, Insulin, Serotonin, Placenta, Insulin-Secreting Cells, Islets of Langerhans, Prolactin