What Is an L-Cell and How Do We Study the Secretory Mechanisms of the L-Cell?

Rune E Kuhre, Carolyn F Deacon, Jens J Holst, Natalia Petersen

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)
    78 Downloads (Pure)


    Synthetic glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogues are effective anti-obesity and anti-diabetes drugs. The beneficial actions of GLP-1 go far beyond insulin secretion and appetite, and include cardiovascular benefits and possibly also beneficial effects in neurodegenerative diseases. Considerable reserves of GLP-1 are stored in intestinal endocrine cells that potentially might be mobilized by pharmacological means to improve the body's metabolic state. In recognition of this, the interest in understanding basic L-cell physiology and the mechanisms controlling GLP-1 secretion, has increased considerably. With a view to home in on what an L-cell is, we here present an overview of available data on L-cell development, L-cell peptide expression profiles, peptide production and secretory patterns of L-cells from different parts of the gut. We conclude that L-cells differ markedly depending on their anatomical location, and that the traditional definition of L-cells as a homogeneous population of cells that only produce GLP-1, GLP-2, glicentin and oxyntomodulin is no longer tenable. We suggest to sub-classify L-cells based on their differential peptide contents as well as their differential expression of nutrient sensors, which ultimately determine the secretory responses to different stimuli. A second purpose of this review is to describe and discuss the most frequently used experimental models for functional L-cell studies, highlighting their benefits and limitations. We conclude that no experimental model is perfect and that a comprehensive understanding must be built on results from a combination of models.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number694284
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 8 Jun 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright © 2021 Kuhre, Deacon, Holst and Petersen.


    • Animals
    • Endocrinology/methods
    • Humans
    • L Cells/metabolism
    • Mice
    • Research Design
    • Secretory Pathway/physiology


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