Glucose Oscillations Can Activate an Endogenous Oscillator in Pancreatic Islets

Joseph P. McKenna, Raghuram Dhumpa, Nikita Mukhitov, Michael G. Roper, Richard Bertram

Pancreatic islets manage elevations in blood glucose level by secreting insulin into the bloodstream in a pulsatile manner. Pulsatile insulin secretion is governed by islet oscillations such as bursting electrical activity and periodic calcium entry in beta-cells. In this report, we demonstrate that although islet oscillations are lost by fixing a glucose stimulus at a high concentration, they may be recovered by subsequently converting the glucose stimulus to a sinusoidal wave. We predict with mathematical modeling that the sinusoidal glucose signal's ability to recover islet oscillations depends on its amplitude and period, and we confirm our predictions by conducting experiments with islets using a microfluidics platform. Our results suggest a mechanism whereby oscillatory blood glucose levels recruit non-oscillating islets to enhance pulsatile insulin output from the pancreas. Our results also provide support for the main hypothesis of the Dual Oscillator Model, that a glycolytic oscillator endogenous to islet beta-cells drives pulsatile insulin secretion.