Leucine or the nonmetabolized leucine analog +/- 2-amino-2-norbornane-carboxylic acid (BCH) (both at 10 mmol/l) induced biphasic insulin secretion in the presence of 2 mmol/l glutamine (Q2) in cultured mouse islets pretreated for 40 min without glucose but with Q2 present. The beta-cell response consisted of an initial peak of 20- to 25-fold above basal and a less marked secondary phase. However, BCH produced only a delayed response, while leucine was totally ineffective when islets were pretreated with 25 mmol/l glucose plus Q2. With Q2, 10 mmol/l BCH or leucine caused a nearly threefold increase, a twofold increase, or had no effect on cytosolic Ca2+ levels in islets pretreated for 40 min with 0, 5, or 15 mmol/l glucose, respectively. Thus, pretreatment of islets with high glucose inhibited BCH- and leucine-induced cytosolic Ca2+ changes and insulin release. Glucose decreased glutamine oxidation in cultured rat islets when BCH was present at 10 mmol/l, but not in its absence, with a lowest effective level of approximately 0.1 mmol/l, a maximum of 18-30 mmol/l, and an inhibitory concentration, 50%, of approximately 3 mmol/l. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that glucose inhibits glutaminolysis in pancreatic beta-cells in a concentration-dependent manner and hence blocks leucine-stimulated insulin secretion. We postulate that in the basal interprandial state, glutaminolysis of beta-cells is partly turned on because glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) is activated by a decreased P-potential due to partial fuel depletion and sensitization to endogenous activators such as leucine. Additionally, it may contribute significantly to basal insulin release, which is known to be responsible for about half of the insulin released daily. The data explain "leucine-hypersensitivity" of beta-cells during hypoglycemia and contribute to the elucidation of the GDH-linked syndrome of hyperinsulinism associated with elevated serum ammonia levels. Thus, understanding the precise regulation and role of beta-cell glutaminolysis is probably central to our concept of normal blood glucose control.

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