β-Cell-rich pancreatic islets were microdissected from noninbred ob/ob-mice and used to examine the mode of action of trivalent lanthanide ions on insulin secretion. La3+, Sm3+, and Tm3+ were equally effective inhibitors of basal and glucose-stimulated insulin release. As indicated by perifusion experiments with Tm3+, the inhibitory action was prompt, sustained, and readily reversible. Despite the similarities among the lanthanides in inhibiting insulin secretion, these cations differed considerably in their ability to impair transmembrane 45Ca fluxes. Using 10 different members of the lanthanide series, it was possible to demonstrate that their effectiveness to inhibit 45Ca uptake increased with ionic radius. La3+ markedly inhibited intracellular uptake and superficial binding of 45Ca at both 3 and 20 mM glucose. However, Tm3+ failed to affect intracellular 45Ca uptake and only reduced superficial binding of 45Ca at 3 mM glucose. In efflux experiments, Tm3+ did not affect basal or glucose-stimulated 45Ca washout from islets perifused with a medium containing 1.28 mM Ca2+. In a Ca2+-deficient medium, Tm3+ caused a slight transient increase, followed by reduction of 45Ca washout. However, when glucose was omitted, there was a prompt increase in the washout of radioactivity in the presence of Tm3+. Accordingly, the potent inhibitory action of Tm3+ on insulin secretion is not matched by changes in transmembrane Ca2+ fluxes. Since the lanthanides do not penetrate intracellularly, we propose the existence of cationic binding sites in the β-cell plasma membrane with direct inhibitory effects on insulin secretion.
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