In the presence of glucose (2 mg/ml), leucine (10 mM) noticeably increased islets' NADPH contents as well as the NADPH:NADP ratio; the changes occurred as soon as 1 min after its addition. NADH concentrations were also increased by leucine. The NADPH:NADP ratio as well as insulin release stimulated by glucose plus leucine were markedly decreased by methylene blue. The thiol oxidants diamide and tert-butyl hydroperoxide also inhibited insulin secretion in response to glucose plus leucine. Employing the perfused pancreas technique, the insulin-releasing action of p-chloromercuribenzoate was further enhanced by leucine. The combined effects were inhibited by tert-butyl hydroperoxide, however.
Our data suggest that the insulin-releasing action of leucine depends on the islets' NADPH and reduced glutathione (GSH); in addition, leucine may contribute to insulin secretion by increasing the islet NADPH:NADP ratio and the NADH:NAD ratio. From the data, we assume that the observed increase of NADPH may lead via GSH to an increase in the number of such thiol groups in the β-cell membrane, which are believed to be related to stimulation of insulin release and, thus, to increase the sensitivity of the β-cell to stimulation by glucose and/or leucine.