Both protein ingestion and amino acid infusion are known to stimulate insulin secretion. The mechanism of this response has been attributed to increased plasma amino acid concentration. The present studies were undertaken to determine whether this-secretory response is due to a direct effect of amino acids on the islet cells or whether it is mediated through some other indirect mechanism. Accordingly, pancreatic infusion studies were conducted to help resolve this question.
Casein hydrolysate (1 gm.) infused into the pancreatico-duodenal artery of dogs for one-half hour provoked an immediate secretion of insulin into the portal vein. Femoral arterial insulin concentration also rose within five minutes, although hyperglycemia was not observed until the end of the infusion. An insulin response of similar magnitude was achieved by pancreatic glucose infusion (1 gm.). Simultaneous administration of epinephrine (30 μg.) inhibited the insulin responses to both glucose and amino acid. Combined infusion of casein hydrolysate and glucose (0.5 gm. each) produced a greater insulin response than the sum of the individual responses, suggesting glucose-amino acid synergism. Intraportal infusion of casein hydrolysate produced no significant insulin response in either portal venous or femoral arterial plasma.
These studies suggest that the insulin response associated with ingested or parenteral protein represents a direct amino acid effect on the islets of Langerhans. They also suggest that the amino acid concentration in the pancreas may be as important as glucose in control of insulin secretion.