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We have investigated the short-term effects of the saturated free fatty acid (FFA) palmitate on pancreatic alpha-cells. Palmitate (0.5 or 1 mmol/l bound to fatty acid-free albumin) stimulated glucagon secretion from intact mouse islets 1.5- to 2-fold when added in the presence of 1-15 mmol/l glucose. Palmitate remained stimulatory in islets depolarized with 30 mmol/l extracellular K(+) or exposed to forskolin, but it did not remain stimulatory after treatment with isradipine or triacsin C. The stimulatory action of palmitate on secretion correlated with a 3.5-fold elevation of intracellular free Ca(2+) when applied in the presence of 15 mmol/l glucose, a 40% stimulation of exocytosis (measured as increases in cell capacitance), and a 25% increase in whole-cell Ca(2+) current. The latter effect was abolished by isradipine, suggesting that palmitate selectively modulates l-type Ca(2+) channels. The effect of palmitate on exocytosis was not mediated by palmitoyl-CoA, and intracellular application of this FFA metabolite decreased rather than enhanced Ca(2+)-induced exocytosis. The stimulatory effects of palmitate on glucagon secretion were paralleled by a approximately 50% inhibition of somatostatin release. We conclude that palmitate increases alpha-cell exocytosis principally by enhanced Ca(2+) entry via l-type Ca(2+) channels and, possibly, relief from paracrine inhibition by somatostatin released by neighboring delta-cells.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2836 - 2843


Animals, Colforsin, Diazoxide, Glucagon, Islets of Langerhans, Isradipine, Kinetics, Membrane Potentials, Mice, Mice, Inbred Strains, Palmitic Acid, Potassium, Triazenes