Ghrelin suppresses insulin secretion in human islets and type 2 diabetes patients have diminished islet ghrelin cell number and lower plasma ghrelin levels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It is not known how ghrelin affects insulin secretion in human islets from patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) or whether islet ghrelin expression or circulating ghrelin levels are altered in T2D. Here we sought out to identify the effect of ghrelin on insulin secretion in human islets and the impact of T2D on circulating ghrelin levels and on islet ghrelin cells. The effect of ghrelin on insulin secretion was assessed in human T2D and non-T2D islets. Ghrelin expression was assessed with RNA-sequencing (n = 191) and immunohistochemistry (n = 21). Plasma ghrelin was measured with ELISA in 40 T2D and 40 non-T2D subjects. Ghrelin exerted a glucose-dependent insulin-suppressing effect in islets from both T2D and non-T2D donors. Compared with non-T2D donors, T2D donors had reduced ghrelin mRNA expression and 75% less islet ghrelin cells, and ghrelin mRNA expression correlated negatively with HbA1c. T2D subjects had 25% lower fasting plasma ghrelin levels than matched controls. Thus, ghrelin has direct insulin-suppressing effects in human islets and T2D patients have lower fasting ghrelin levels, likely as a result of reduced number of islet ghrelin cells. These findings support inhibition of ghrelin signaling as a potential therapeutic avenue for stimulation of insulin secretion in T2D patients.


External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Aleris Obesitas Skåne
  • Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Endocrinology and Diabetes
Original languageEnglish
Article number110835
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.