The glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP-1R) is insulinotropic in β-cells and the target of multiple classes of diabetes drugs. People with T2D secrete normal amounts of GLP-1, but are less responsive to its actions; the mechanisms for this are unknown. Studies have shown that metabolic stress decreases GLP-1R in islets, however, it is unknown if this occurs in all, or just a subset, of β-cells. We hypothesized that GLP-1R expression is heterogeneous in β-cells, such that not all β-cells express the GLP-1R, and that metabolic stress would decrease the number of GLP-1R+ β-cells. To test this, we first performed single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) in mouse and human islet cells and found that the majority of β-cells were GLP-1R negative, supporting significant heterogeneity. To validate the scRNAseq results, we generated a GLP-1R reporter mouse by crossing GLP-1R-Cre with mTmG mice. Using FACS to separate and qPCR to characterize positive (GFP+) from negative (tdTomato+) dispersed islet cells, we found GLP-1R+ cells were enriched for Ins2 and Sst, while GLP-1R- cells were enriched for Gcg, suggesting GLP-1R promoter activity is localized to β- and d-cells. In addition, β-cell markers were not present in the tdTomato+ population, suggesting very few GLP-1R negative β-cells. Next, we stained dispersed islets from the reporter mice with a validated GLP-1R antibody and found >90% congruence with GFP+ cells and no staining in tdTomato+ cells. In dispersed islets from wild type mice, ∼90% of β-cells were GLP-1R+; very few of the α- or d-cells were GLP-1R+. Metabolic stress induced through chronic high-fat feeding or using multiparous models did not alter the number of GLP-1R+ β-cells.

In conclusion, assessment of GLP-1R expression and GLP-1R protein revealed the majority of β-cells are GLP-1R+, a finding that conflicts with the interpretation of scRNAseq data. These findings suggest caution in interpreting the results of scRNAseq for low abundant transcripts such as the GLP-1R.


S.M. Gray: None. B.M. Chazotte: None. E.C. Ross: None. B. Svendsen: None. P. Ravn: Employee; Self; AstraZeneca. K. Sloop: None. J. Campbell: Research Support; Self; Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk Inc. Speaker’s Bureau; Self; Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. D. D’Alessio: Advisory Panel; Self; Eli Lilly and Company. Consultant; Self; Intarcia Therapeutics. Research Support; Self; Ansh Labs, Eli Lilly and Company, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Other Relationship; Self; Novo Nordisk A/S.

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