In addition to the primary stimulus of glucose, specific amino acids may acutely and chronically regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells in vivo and in vitro. Mitochondrial metabolism is crucial for the coupling of glucose, alanine, glutamine and glutamate recognition with exocytosis of insulin granules. This is illustrated by in vitro and in vivo observations discussed in the present review. Mitochondria generate ATP (the main coupling messenger in insulin secretion) and other factors that serve as sensors for the control of the exocytotic process. The main factors that mediate the key amplifying pathway over the Ca2+ signal in nutrient-stimulated insulin secretion are nucleotides (ATP, GTP, cAMP and NADPH), although metabolites have also been proposed, such as long-chain acyl-CoA derivatives and glutamate. In addition, after chronic exposure, specific amino acids may influence gene expression in the β-cell, which have an impact on insulin secretion and cellular integrity. Therefore amino acids may play a direct or indirect (via generation of putative messengers of mitochondrial origin) role in insulin secretion.

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