American Diabetes Association
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The Essential Role of Pancreatic α-cells in Maternal Metabolic Adaptation to Pregnancy

posted on 2022-02-11, 22:35 authored by Liping Qiao, Sarah Saget, Cindy Lu, Tianyi Zang, Brianna Dzyuba, William W. Hay, Jr., Jianhua Shao
Pancreatic α-cells are important in maintaining metabolic homeostasis, but their role in regulating maternal metabolic adaptations to pregnancy has not been studied. The objective of this study was to determine whether pancreatic α-cells respond to pregnancy and their contribution to maternal metabolic adaptation. Using C57BL/6 mice, our study showed that pregnancy induced a significant increase of α-cell mass by promoting α-cell proliferation that was associated with a transitory increase of maternal serum glucagon concentration in early pregnancy. Maternal pancreatic GLP-1 content also was significantly increased during pregnancy. Using the inducible Cre/loxp technique, we ablated the α-cells (α-null) before and during pregnancy while maintaining enteroendocrine L-cells and serum GLP-1 in the normal range. In contrast to an improved glucose tolerance test (GTT) before pregnancy, significantly impaired GTT and remarkably higher serum glucose concentrations in the fed state were observed in α-null dams. Glucagon receptor antagonism treatment, however, did not affect measures of maternal glucose metabolism, indicating a dispensable role of glucagon receptor signaling in maternal glucose homeostasis. However, the GLP-1 receptor agonist improved insulin production and glucose metabolism of α-null dams. Furthermore, GLP-1 receptor antagonist Exendin (9-39) attenuated pregnancy-enhanced insulin secretion and GLP-1 restored glucose-induced insulin secretion of cultured islets from α-null dams. Together, these results demonstrate that α-cells play an essential role in controlling maternal metabolic adaptation to pregnancy by enhancing insulin secretion.


This work was supported by NIH grants DK095132 (J.S.) and DK113007 (J.S.).