Gastrin (G) and cholecystokinin (CCK) are gastrointestinal neuropeptides that are released into circulation during a meal. G is also transiently expressed during embryogenic and early ontogenic development of the pancreas and is believed to act on islet-cell development. Both peptides act on pancreatic endocrine function; however, the effects are dependent on the species and on cellular and molecular underlying mechanisms that remain poorly characterized. Since CCK-B/G subtype receptor is predominant over the CCK-A subtype in the human pancreas, we hypothesized that it could be expressed by islet cells. Here we present reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry data demonstrating that the CCK-B/G receptor is expressed in islet cells and that islet glucagon-producing cells are the major site of CCK-B/G receptor expression in adult and fetal pancreas. Moreover, G immunoreactivity was detected in the fetal human pancreas at embryogenic week 22. G- and CCK-stimulated glucagon are released from purified human islets. Concentration of CCK and G eliciting a half-maximal level of glucagon secretion were 13 +/- 6 and 8 +/- 5 pmol/l, respectively. Maximal glucagon secretion was achieved in the presence of 30 pmol/l peptides and was similar to that obtained in the presence of 10 mmol/l L-arginine (1.6 pmol x ml(-1) x 90 min(-1)). The nonpeptide antagonist of the CCK-B/G receptor, RPR-101048, fully inhibited CCK- and G-stimulated glucagon secretion at 100 nmol/l concentration. These data are consistent with the view that the CCK-B/G receptor is involved in glucose homeostasis in adult humans and mediates the autocrine effects of G on islet differentiation and growth in the fetal pancreas.

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