The dual role of the pancreas as both an endocrine and exocrine gland is vital for food digestion and control of nutrient metabolism. The exocrine pancreas secretes enzymes into the small intestine aiding digestion of sugars and fats, whereas the endocrine pancreas secretes a cocktail of hormones into the blood, which is responsible for blood glucose control and regulation of carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism. Classical islet hormones, insulin, glucagon, pancreatic polypeptide and somatostatin, interact in an autocrine and paracrine manner, to fine-tube the islet function and insulin secretion to the needs of the body. Recently pancreatic islets have been reported to express a number of non-classical peptide hormones involved in metabolic signalling, whose major production site was believed to reside outside pancreas, e.g. in the small intestine. We highlight the key non-classical islet peptides, and consider their involvement, together with established islet hormones, in regulation of stimulus-secretion coupling as well as proliferation, survival and transdifferentiation of β-cells. We furthermore focus on the paracrine interaction between classical and non-classical islet hormones in the maintenance of β-cell function. Understanding the functional relationships between these islet peptides might help to develop novel, more efficient treatments for diabetes and related metabolic disorders.
- Insulin secretion