Glucagon and Type 2 Diabetes: the Return of the Alpha Cell
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- Lund, A., Bagger, J.I., Christensen, M. et al. Curr Diab Rep (2014) 14: 555. doi:10.1007/s11892-014-0555-4
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In normal physiology, glucagon from pancreatic alpha cells plays an important role in maintaining glucose homeostasis via its regulatory effect on hepatic glucose production. Patients with type 2 diabetes suffer from fasting and postprandial hyperglucagonemia, which stimulate hepatic glucose production and, thus, contribute to the hyperglycemia characterizing these patients. Although this has been known for years, research focusing on alpha cell (patho)physiology has historically been dwarfed by research on beta cells and insulin. Today the mechanisms behind type 2 diabetic hyperglucagonemia are still poorly understood. Preclinical and clinical studies have shown that the gastrointestinal hormone glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) might play an important role in this pathophysiological phenomenon. Furthermore, it has become apparent that suppression of glucagon secretion or antagonization of the glucagon receptor constitutes potentially effective treatment strategies for patients with type 2 diabetes. In this review, we focus on the regulation of glucagon secretion by the incretin hormones glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and GIP. Furthermore, potential advantages and limitations of suppressing glucagon secretion or antagonizing the glucagon receptor, respectively, in the treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes will be discussed.