Mechanisms by which various classes of extracellular signals regulate insulin secretion are discussed regarding their cellular and molecular actions. Under physiological circumstances, the small postprandial changes in plasma glucose concentrations (∼4.4–6.6 mM) primarily serve as a conditional modifier of insulin secretion and dramatically alter the responsiveness of islets to a combination of neurohumoral agonists. These agonists have two functions. Cholecystokinin (CCK) and acetylcholine activate the hydrolysis of polyphosphoinositides, and gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) and glucagonlike peptide 1 activate adenylate cyclase. These two functional classes of neurohumoral agonists act synergistically to enhance insulin secretion when plasma glucose is >6.0 mM but not when it is ≤4 mM. On the other hand, an increase in plasma glucose concentration to 8–10 mM induces an increase in insulin secretory rate in the absence of any of the neurohumoral agonists. Remarkably, high glucose leads to an increase in the same intracellular signals, as does a combination of acetylcholine and GIP. On the basis of these data, a model of how insulin secretion is regulated under physiological circumstances is proposed. This model emphasizes that the regulation of insulin secretion occurs in three stages: cephalic, early enteric, and later enteric. In this view, the crucial event occurring during the first two phases is the agonistinduced translocation of protein kinase C (PKC) to the plasma membrane under conditions in which an increase in Ca2+ influx does not occur. PKC is now in a cellular location and a Ca2+-sensitive conformation such that an increase in Ca2+ influx rate occurring during the third phase leads to its immediate activation and an enhanced rate of insulin secretion. Furthermore, under physiological circumstances, an optimal insulin secretory response is dependent on a correct temporal pattern of signals arising from neural and enteric sources. If this pattern is deranged, an abnormal pattern of insulin secretion is observed. An important new insight is provided by the observation that agonists (e.g., CCK or acetylcholine) that act to stimulate the hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositides, when acting for a short period (10–20 min), induce an enhanced responsiveness of islets to glucose, i.e., proemial sensitization. However, when acting unopposed for several hours, these agonists will induce a time-dependent suppression of responsiveness to glucose and other agonists. The latter observation implies that optimal insulin secretion is dependent on periodic rather than continuous exposure to the correct pattern of extracellular signals. The clinical implications of these new observations are discussed regarding glucose toxicity, the possible role of interleukin 1 in the pathogensis of insulin-dependent diabetes, sulfonylurea therapy, and the abnormalities of insulin secretion seen in non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

This content is only available via PDF.