The glucose-fatty acid cycle of Randle entails two elements: decreased pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) activity, which inhibits glucose oxidation, and inhibition of phosphofructokinase (PFK) by a rise in citrate so that glucose-6-phosphate (G-6-P) levels increase, thereby inhibiting hexokinase activity and hence glucose utilization. Chronic exposure of islets to long-chain fatty acids (FA) is reported to lower PDH activity, but the effect on glucose oxidation and glucose-induced insulin secretion is uncertain. We investigated rat islets that were cultured for 4 days with 0.25 mmol/l oleate/5.5 mmol/l glucose. Glucose oxidation was doubled at 2.8 mmol/l glucose and unchanged at 27.7 mmol/l glucose in the FA-cultured islets despite a 35% decrease in assayed PDH activity. Pyruvate content was increased 60%, which may well compensate for the decreased PDH activity and maintain flux through the citric acid cycle. However, a greater diversion of pyruvate metabolism through the pyruvate-malate shuttle is suggested by unchanged pyruvate carboxylase Vmax and a fourfold higher release of malate from isolated mitochondria. The FA-cultured islets also showed increased basal glucose usage and insulin secretion together with a lowered level of G-6-P and 50% reductions in citrate synthase Vmax and the citrate content. Thus, the effects of chronic FA exposure on islet glucose metabolism differ from the glucose-fatty acid interactions reported in some other tissues.

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