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Keywords:

  • dipeptidyl peptidase-4;
  • exenatide;
  • glucagon-like peptide-1;
  • glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide;
  • incretins;
  • liraglutide;
  • prediabetes;
  • sitagliptin;
  • vildagliptin

Incretins are gut peptides that potentiate nutrient-stimulated insulin secretion following meal ingestion. Activities of the dominant incretins, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide, include glucose-dependent stimulation of insulin secretion and, in preclinical models, improvement in islet β-cell mass. GLP-1 additionally reduces glucagon secretion, inhibits gastric emptying and promotes satiety. Patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) exhibit reduced total and intact GLP-1 levels, and exogenous administration of the hormone via continuous infusion results in glucose profiles similar to those in non-diabetic subjects. Incretins are rapidly degraded by dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4). Thus, strategies to enhance incretin activity have included development of GLP-1 receptor agonists resistant to the action of DPP-4 (e.g. exenatide and liraglutide) and DPP-4 inhibitors that act to increase concentrations of endogenous intact incretins (e.g. sitagliptin and vildagliptin). Clinical trials of these incretin-based therapies have shown them to be effective in improving glycaemic control in patients with T2DM.