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AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Exposure to excess glucocorticoid is associated with pancreatic beta cell damage and decreased glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). Inactive glucocorticoids (cortisone, 11-dehydrocorticosterone) are converted to active cortisol and corticosterone by 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11beta-HSD1), which requires NADPH as cofactor, which is generated by hexose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (H6PDH). We investigated the localisation and activity of 11beta-HSD1 within pancreatic islets, and determined its functional role in the regulation of insulin and glucagon secretion. METHODS: mRNA expression of 11beta-HSD1 (also known as HSD11B1), glucocorticoid receptor and H6PDH (also known as H6PD) in human pancreas and murine islets was examined by real-time PCR. 11beta-HSD1 protein levels were examined by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. 11beta-HSD1 activity was assessed in intact tissue and isolated islets of wild-type (WT) and both 11beta-Hsd1- and H6pdh-null mice. Glucagon secretion and insulin secretion were analysed by RIA and ELISA respectively in isolated murine islets incubated with dexamethasone. RESULTS: 11beta-HSD1 co-localised with glucagon in the periphery of murine and human islets, but not with insulin or somatostatin. Dexamethasone, 11-dehydrocorticosterone and corticosterone induced a dose-dependent decrease in GSIS and glucagon secretion following low glucose stimulation. Reduction of 11beta-HSD1 activity with specific inhibitors or in experiments carried out in H6pdh-null mice reversed the effects of 11-dehydrocorticosterone, but had no effect following treatment with corticosterone. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Local regeneration of glucocorticoid via 11beta-HSD1 within alpha cells regulates glucagon secretion and in addition may act in a paracrine manner to limit insulin secretion from beta cells.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2003 - 2011


11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1, Animals, Carbohydrate Dehydrogenases, Dexamethasone, Enzyme Inhibitors, Female, Glucagon, Homeostasis, Insulin, Insulin Secretion, Islets of Langerhans, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Polymerase Chain Reaction, RNA, Messenger, Receptors, Glucocorticoid, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction