Control of insulin secretion by cholinergic signaling in the human pancreatic islet

Judith Molina, Rayner Rodriguez-Diaz, Alberto Fachado, M. Caroline Jacques-Silva, Per Olof Berggren, Alejandro Caicedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Acetylcholine regulates hormone secretion from the pancreatic islet and is thus crucial for glucose homeo-stasis. Little is known, however, about acetylcholine (cholinergic) signaling in the human islet. We recently reported that in the human islet, acetylcholine is primarily a paracrine signal released from α-cells rather than primarily a neural signal as in rodent islets. In this study, we demonstrate that the effects acetylcholine produces in the human islet are different and more complex than expected from studies conducted on cell lines and rodent islets. We found that endogenous acetylcho-line not only stimulates the insulin-secreting β-cell via the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors M3 and M5, but also the somatostatin-secreting d-cell via M1 receptors. Because somatostatin is a strong inhibitor of insulin secretion, we hypothesized that cholinergic input to the d-cell indirectly regulates β-cell function. Indeed, when all muscarinic signaling was blocked, somatostatin secretion decreased and insulin secretion unexpectedly increased, suggesting a reduced inhibitory input to β-cells. Endogenous cholinergic signaling therefore provides direct stimulatory and indirect inhibitory input to β-cells to regulate insulin secretion from the human islet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2714-2726
Number of pages13
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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