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Islets of Langerhans are anatomically dispersed within the pancreas and exhibit regulatory coordination between islets in response to nutritional and inflammatory stimuli. However, within individual islets, there is also multi-faceted coordination of function between individual beta-cells, and between beta-cells and other endocrine and vascular cell types. This is mediated partly through circulatory feedback of the major secreted hormones, insulin and glucagon, but also by autocrine and paracrine actions within the islet by a range of other secreted products, including somatostatin, urocortin 3, serotonin, glucagon-like peptide-1, acetylcholine, and ghrelin. Their availability can be modulated within the islet by pericyte-mediated regulation of microvascular blood flow. Within the islet, both endocrine progenitor cells and the ability of endocrine cells to trans-differentiate between phenotypes can alter endocrine cell mass to adapt to changed metabolic circumstances, regulated by the within-islet trophic environment. Optimal islet function is precariously balanced due to the high metabolic rate required by beta-cells to synthesize and secrete insulin, and they are susceptible to oxidative and endoplasmic reticular stress in the face of high metabolic demand. Resulting changes in paracrine dynamics within the islets can contribute to the emergence of Types 1, 2 and gestational diabetes.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Mol Sci

Publication Date





beta-cell, gestational diabetes mellitus, islets of Langerhans, paracrine, plasticity, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, Female, Humans, Pregnancy, Insulin, Diabetes, Gestational, Communication, Pancreas, Insulin, Regular, Human, Islets of Langerhans