- 1The perforated patch whole-cell configuration of the patch-clamp technique was applied to superficial glucagon-secreting α-cells in intact mouse pancreatic islets.
- 2α-cells were distinguished from the β- and δ-cells by the presence of a large TTX-blockable Na+ current, a TEA-resistant transient K+ current sensitive to 4-AP (A-current) and the presence of two kinetically separable Ca2+ current components corresponding to low- (T-type) and high-threshold (L-type) Ca2+ channels.
- 3The T-type Ca2+, Na+ and A-currents were subject to steady-state voltage-dependent inactivation, which was half-maximal at −45, −47 and −68 mV, respectively.
- 4Pancreatic α-cells were equipped with tolbutamide-sensitive, ATP-regulated K+ (KATP) channels. Addition of tolbutamide (0·1 mm) evoked a brief period of electrical activity followed by a depolarisation to a plateau of −30 mV with no regenerative electrical activity.
- 5Glucagon secretion in the absence of glucose was strongly inhibited by TTX, nifedipine and tolbutamide. When diazoxide was added in the presence of 10 mm glucose, concentrations up to 2 μm stimulated glucagon secretion to the same extent as removal of glucose.
- 6We conclude that electrical activity and secretion in the α-cells is dependent on the generation of Na+-dependent action potentials. Glucagon secretion depends on low activity of KATP channels to keep the membrane potential sufficiently negative to prevent voltage-dependent inactivation of voltage-gated membrane currents. Glucose may inhibit glucagon release by depolarising the α-cell with resultant inactivation of the ion channels participating in action potential generation.