Opposing roles of the entero-pancreatic hormone urocortin-3 in glucose metabolism in rats

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AIM/HYPOTHESIS: Urocortin-3 (UCN3) is a glucoregulatory peptide produced in the gut and pancreatic islets. The aim of this study was to clarify the acute effects of UCN3 on glucose regulation following an oral glucose challenge and to investigate the mechanisms involved.

METHODS: We studied the effect of UCN3 on blood glucose, gastric emptying, glucose absorption and secretion of gut and pancreatic hormones in male rats. To supplement these physiological studies, we mapped the expression of UCN3 and the UCN3-sensitive receptor, type 2 corticotropin-releasing factor receptor (CRHR2), by means of fluorescence in situ hybridisation and by gene expression analysis.

RESULTS: In rats, s.c. administration of UCN3 strongly inhibited gastric emptying and glucose absorption after oral administration of glucose. Direct inhibition of gastrointestinal motility may be responsible because UCN3's cognate receptor, CRHR2, was detected in gastric submucosal plexus and in interstitial cells of Cajal. Despite inhibited glucose absorption, post-challenge blood glucose levels matched those of rats given vehicle in the low-dose UCN3 group, because UCN3 concomitantly inhibited insulin secretion. Higher UCN3 doses did not further inhibit gastric emptying, but the insulin inhibition progressed resulting in elevated post-challenge glucose and lipolysis. Incretin hormones and somatostatin (SST) secretion from isolated perfused rat small intestine was unaffected by UCN3 infusion; however, UCN3 infusion stimulated secretion of somatostatin from delta cells in the isolated perfused rat pancreas which, unlike alpha cells and beta cells, expressed Crhr2. Conversely, acute antagonism of CRHR2 signalling increased insulin secretion by reducing SST signalling. Consistent with these observations, acute drug-induced inhibition of CRHR2 signalling improved glucose tolerance in rats to a similar degree as administration of glucagon-like peptide-1. UCN3 also powerfully inhibited glucagon secretion from isolated perfused rat pancreas (perfused with 3.5 mmol/l glucose) in a SST-dependent manner, suggesting that UCN3 may be involved in glucose-induced inhibition of glucagon secretion.

CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Our combined data indicate that UCN3 is an important glucoregulatory hormone that acts through regulation of gastrointestinal and pancreatic functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018–1031
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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© 2022. The Author(s).

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