Journal of the Endocrine Society Journal Article

Metabolomic Signature of Glucagon Action

September 06, 2021
 

Rick B Vega, Katie L Whytock, Johan Gassenhuber, Britta Goebel, Joachim Tillner, Inoncent Agueusop, Agnieszka D Truax, Gongxin Yu, Elvis Carnero, Nidhi Kapoor, Stephen Gardell, Lauren M Sparks, Steven R Smith
Journal of the Endocrine Society, Volume 5, Issue 9, September 2021, bvab118
https://doi.org/10.1210/jendso/bvab118

Abstract

Context

Glucagon is produced and released from the pancreatic alpha-cell to regulate glucose levels during periods of fasting. The main target for glucagon action is the liver, where it activates gluconeogenesis and glycogen breakdown; however, glucagon is postulated to have other roles within the body.

Objective

We sought to identify the circulating metabolites that would serve as markers of glucagon action in humans.

Methods

In this study (NCT03139305), we performed a continuous 72-hour glucagon infusion in healthy individuals with overweight/obesity. Participants were randomized to receive glucagon 12.5 ng/kg/min (GCG 12.5), glucagon 25 ng/kg/min (GCG 25), or a placebo control. A comprehensive metabolomics analysis was then performed from plasma isolated at several time points during the infusion to identify markers of glucagon activity.

Results

Glucagon (GCG 12.5 and GCG 25) resulted in significant changes in the plasma metabolome as soon as 4 hours following infusion. Pathways involved in amino acid metabolism were among the most affected. Rapid and sustained reduction of a broad panel of amino acids was observed. Additionally, time-dependent changes in free fatty acids and diacylglycerol and triglyceride species were observed.

Conclusion

These results define a distinct signature of glucagon action that is broader than the known changes in glucose levels. In particular, the robust changes in amino acid levels may prove useful to monitor changes induced by glucagon in the context of additional glucagon-like peptide-1 or gastric inhibitory polypeptide treatment, as these agents also elicit changes in glucose levels.

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