BACKGROUND: Consumption of high fat diet and insulin resistance induce significant changes in pancreatic islet morphology and function essential for maintenance of normal glucose homeostasis. We have used incretin receptor null mice to evaluate the role of gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) in this adaptive response.METHODS: C57BL/6 and GIPRKO mice were fed high fat diet for 45weeks from weaning. Changes of pancreatic islet morphology were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Body fat, glucose, insulin, glucagon, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and GIP were assessed by routine assays.RESULTS: Compared with normal diet controls, high fat fed C57BL/6 mice exhibited increased body fat, hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance, associated with decreased pancreatic glucagon, unchanged pancreatic GLP-1 and marked increases of insulin, islet number, islet size and both beta- and alpha-cell areas. Beta cell proliferation and apoptosis were increased under high fat feeding, but the overall effect favoured enhanced beta cell mass. A broadly similar pattern of change was observed in high fat fed GIPRKO mice but islet compensation was severely impaired in every respect. The inability to enhance beta cell proliferation was associated with the depletion of pancreatic GLP-1 and lack of hyperinsulinaemic response, resulting in non-fasting hyperglycaemia. GIP and GLP-1 were expressed in islets of all groups of mice but high fat fed GIPRKO mice displayed decreased numbers of GLP-1 containing alpha cells plus non-functional enhancement of pancreatic GIP content.GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE: These data suggest that GIP released from islet alpha-cells and intestinal K-cells plays an important role in islet adaptations to high fat feeding.