What Is the Metabolic Amplification of Insulin Secretion and Is It (Still) Relevant?
The pancreatic beta-cell transduces the availability of nutrients into the secretion of insulin. While this process is extensively modified by hormones and neurotransmitters, it is the availability of nutrients, above all glucose, which sets the process of insulin synthesis and secretion in motion. The central role of the mitochondria in this process was identified decades ago, but how changes in mitochondrial activity are coupled to the exocytosis of insulin granules is still incompletely understood. The identification of ATP-sensitive K+-channels provided the link between the level of adenine nucleotides and the electrical activity of the beta cell, but the depolarization-induced Ca2+-influx into the beta cells, although necessary for stimulated secretion, is not sufficient to generate the secretion pattern as produced by glucose and other nutrient secretagogues. The metabolic amplification of insulin secretion is thus the sequence of events that enables the secretory response to a nutrient secretagogue to exceed the secretory response to a purely depolarizing stimulus and is thus of prime importance. Since the cataplerotic export of mitochondrial metabolites is involved in this signaling, an orienting overview on the topic of nutrient secretagogues beyond glucose is included. Their judicious use may help to define better the nature of the signals and their mechanism of action.