The secretory, metabolic, and signaling aspects of glucose/ palmitate interaction on β-cell function have been studied on rat islets. Palmitate potentiated the glucose-induced insulin response of perifused islets at suprathreshold (>3 mmol/1) sugar concentrations. This potentiating effect could be suppressed by 8-bromocGMP, which also blocks palmitate metabolism. Palmitate did not modify glucose utilization, but it slightly reduced glucose oxidation and concomitantly increased lactate production. The very low rate of palmitate oxidation (80-fold lower than that of 20 mmol/l glucose) might explain its lack of effect on glycolysis and hence that the glucose/fatty acid cycle is inoperative in islet cells. However, glucose determines the metabolic fate of exogenous palmitate, which is mainly diverted toward lipid synthesis at high sugar concentrations and might then generate lipid messengers for cell signaling. Palmitate did not increase glucose-induced production of inositol-l,4,5-trisphosphate, but it stimulated the translocation of protein kinase C activity from a cytosolic to a particulate fraction at 20 but not at 3 mmol/l glucose. This increased translocation was partially or completely blocked by hydroxycitrate or 8-bromo-cGMP, respectively, which are agents interfering with palmitate metabolism (inhibiting lipid synthesis). The metabolic interaction between glucose and palmitate might generate lipid messengers (diacylglycerol, phosphatidylserine) necessary for the activation of islet protein kinase C, which would in turn result in a potentiation of glucose-induced insulin secretion.

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