Peptidic glucagon antagonists have been shown to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic models (1-3), but attempts to identify small molecular weight glucagon receptor-binding antagonists have met with little success. Skyrin, a fungal bisanthroquinone, exhibits functional glucagon antagonism by uncoupling the glucagon receptor from adenylate cyclase activation in rat liver membranes (1). We have examined the effects of skyrin on cells transfected with the human glucagon receptor and on isolated rat and human hepatocytes. The skyrin used was isolated from Talaromyces wortmanni American Type Culture Collection 10517. In rat hepatocytes, skyrin (30 micromol/l) inhibited glucagon-stimulated cAMP production (53%) and glucose output (IC50 56 micromol/l). There was no detectable effect on epinephrine or glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) stimulation of these parameters, which demonstrates skyrin's selective activity. Skyrin was also evaluated in primary cultures of human hepatocytes. Unlike cell lines, which are largely unresponsive to glucagon, primary human hepatocytes exhibited glucagon-dependent cAMP production for 14 days in culture (EC50 10 nmol/l). Skyrin (10 micromol/l) markedly reduced glucagon-stimulated cAMP production (55%) and glycogenolysis (27%) in human hepatocytes. The inhibition of glucagon stimulation was a specific property displayed by skyrin and oxyskyrin but not shared by other bisanthroquinones. Skyrin is the first small molecular weight nonpeptidic agent demonstrated to interfere with the coupling of glucagon to adenylate cyclase independent of binding to the glucagon receptor. The data presented in this study indicate that functional uncoupling of the human glucagon receptor from cAMP production results in metabolic effects that could reduce hepatocyte glucose production and hence alleviate diabetic hyperglycemia.

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