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Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is an endogenous glucose-lowering hormone and GLP-1 receptor agonists are currently being used as antidiabetic drugs clinically. The canonical signalling pathway (including cAMP, Epac2, protein kinase A (PKA) and KATP channels) is almost universally accepted as the main mechanism of GLP-1-stimulated insulin secretion. This belief is based on in vitro studies that used nanomolar (1-100 nM) concentrations of GLP-1. Recently, it was found that the physiological concentrations (1-10 pM) of GLP-1 also stimulate insulin secretion from isolated islets, induce membrane depolarization and increase of intracellular [Ca2+] in isolated β cells/pancreatic islets. These responses were unaffected by PKA inhibitors and occurred without detectable increases in intracellular cAMP and PKA activity. These PKA-independent actions of GLP-1 depend on protein kinase C (PKC), involve activation of the standard GLP-1 receptor (GLP1R) and culminate in activation of phospholipase C (PLC), leading to an elevation of diacylglycerol (DAG), increased L-type Ca2+ and TRPM4/TRPM5 channel activities. Here, we review these recent data and contrast them against the effects of nanomolar concentrations of GLP-1. The differential intracellular signalling activated by low and high concentrations of GLP-1 could provide a clue to explain how GLP-1 exerts different function in the central nervous system and peripheral organs.

Original publication




Journal article


J Mol Med (Berl)

Publication Date





361 - 368


GLP-1, Insulin secretion, KATP channel, PKA, PKC, TRP channels, Animals, Calcium Channels, Cyclic AMP, Glucagon-Like Peptide 1, Glucose, Humans, Hypoglycemic Agents, Insulin, Insulin-Secreting Cells, KATP Channels, Protein Kinase C, Signal Transduction, TRPM Cation Channels, Transient Receptor Potential Channels, Type C Phospholipases