The mechanisms underlying the first phase of glucose-stimulated insulin release, the deterioration of which marks the early stages of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, are essentially unknown. Among many hypotheses, one holds that the first phase is due to a readily releasable pool of insulin-containing granules. We used current knowledge of the mechanisms of exocytosis and the proteins involved in docking granules at the plasma membrane to test this hypothesis. A docked pool of readily releasable granules was identified by immunoprecipitation of the plasma membrane protein syntaxin with a specific antibody and by co-immunoprecipitation of soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein-25 (SNAP-25) and the granule proteins synaptobrevin and synaptotagmin. The four SNARE proteins co-immunoprecipitated each other, thus identifying the core complex associated with docked granules. Using co-immunoprecipitation as a marker for docked granules, we found that the docked pool was rapidly discharged during the first phase of glucose-stimulated insulin release and refilled during the second phase. Other secretagogues also released the pool, whereas the physiological inhibitor norepinephrine blocked its release. Further studies on the nature of this pool of granules should shed light on the causes of its deterioration in the early stages of diabetes and the reasons for deficient insulin release.

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