In this symposium review we discuss the role of neurotransmitters as paracrine signals that regulate pancreatic islet function. A large number of neurotransmitters and their receptors has been identified in the islet, but relatively little is known about their involvement in islet biology. Interestingly, neurotransmitters initially thought to be present in autonomic axons innervating the islet are also present in endocrine cells of the human islet. These neurotransmitters can thus be released as paracrine signals to help control hormone release. Here we propose that the role of neurotransmitters may extend beyond controlling endocrine cell function to work as signals modulating vascular flow and immune responses within the islet.
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