Adrenergic modulation of pancreatic glucagon secretion in man

J. E. Gerich, M. Langlois, C. Noacco, V. Schneider, P. H. Forsham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


In order to characterize the influence of the adrenergic system on pancreatic glucagon secretion in man, changes in basal glucagon secretion during infusions of pure alpha and beta adrenergic agonists and their specific antagonists were studied. During infusion of isoproterenol (3 μg/min), a beta adrenergic agonist, plasma glucagon rose from a mean (±SE) basal level of 104±10 to 171±15 pg/ml, P < 0.0002. Concomitant infusion of propranolol (80 μg/min), a beta adrenergic antagonist, prevented the effects of isoproterenol, although propranolol itself had no effect on basal glucagon secretion. During infusion of methoxamine (0.5 mg/min), an alpha adrenergic agonist, plasma glucagon declined from a mean basal level of 122±15 to 75±17 pg/ml, P < 0.001. Infusion of phentolamine (0.5 mg/min), an alpha adrenergic antagonist, caused a rise in plasma glucagon from a mean basal level of 118±16 to 175±21 pg/ml, P < 0.0001. Concomitant infusion of methoxamine with phentolamine caused a reversal of the effects of phentolamine. The present studies thus confirm that catecholamines affect glucagon secretion in man and demonstrate that the pancreatic alpha cell possesses both alpha and beta adrenergic receptors. Beta adrenergic stimulation augments basal glucagon secretion, while alpha adrenergic stimulation diminishes basal glucagon secretion. Furthermore, since infusion of phentolamine, an alpha adrenergic antagonist, resulted in an elevation of basal plasma glucagon levels, there appears to be an inhibitory alpha adrenergic tone governing basal glucagon secretion. The above findings suggest that catecholamines may influence glucose homeostasis in man through their effects on both pancreatic alpha and beta cell function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1441-1446
Number of pages6
JournalUnknown Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1974
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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