Inhibition of the malate-aspartate shuttle in mouse pancreatic islets abolishes glucagon secretion without affecting insulin secretion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Altered secretion of insulin as well as glucagon has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Type 2 diabetes (T2D), but the mechanisms controlling glucagon secretion from alpha-cells largely remain unresolved. Therefore, we studied the regulation of glucagon secretion from alpha TC1-6 (alpha TC1 clone 6) cells and compared it with insulin release from INS-1 832/13 cells. We found that INS-1 832/13 and alpha TC1-6 cells respectively secreted insulin and glucagon concentration-dependently in response to glucose. In contrast, tight coupling of glycolytic and mitochondrial metabolism was observed only in INS-1 832/13 cells. Although glycolytic metabolism was similar in the two cell lines, TCA (tricarboxylic acid) cycle metabolism, respiration and ATP levels were less glucose-responsive in alpha TC1-6 cells. Inhibition of the malate-aspartate shuttle, using phenyl succinate (PhS), abolished glucose-provoked ATP production and hormone secretion from alpha TC1-6 but not INS-1 832/13 cells. Blocking the malate-aspartate shuttle increased levels of glycerol 3-phosphate only in INS-1 832/13 cells. Accordingly, relative expression of constituents in the glycerol phosphate shuttle compared with malate-aspartate shuttle was lower in alpha TC1-6 cells. Our data suggest that the glycerol phosphate shuttle augments the malate-aspartate shuttle in INS-1 832/13 but not alpha TC1-6 cells. These results were confirmed in mouse islets, where PhS abrogated secretion of glucagon but not insulin. Furthermore, expression of the rate-limiting enzyme of the glycerol phosphate shuttle was higher in sorted primary beta-than in alpha-cells. Thus, suppressed glycerol phosphate shuttle activity in the alpha-cell may prevent a high rate of glycolysis and consequently glucagon secretion in response to glucose. Accordingly, pyruvate-and lactate-elicited glucagon secretion remains unaffected since their signalling is independent of mitochondrial shuttles.


External organisations
  • University of Geneva
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Endocrinology and Diabetes


  • coupling factors, glucose metabolism, mitochondrial transport, islets, insulin, glucagon
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-63
JournalBiochemical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Diabetes and Endocrinology (013241530), Molecular Metabolism (013244000), Molecular Metabolism (013212001)

Related research output

Andersson, L., 2015, Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University. 58 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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