LA JOLLA, CA-The neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) makes cameo appearances throughout the body, but its leading role is as the opening act in the stress response, jump-starting the process along the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found that CRF also plays a part in the pancreas, where it increases insulin secretion and promotes the division of the insulin-producing beta cells.
These findings, which will be published in this week's edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may provide new insights into diabetes, particularly type 1, as well as suggest novel targets for drug intervention.
The pancreas is both an exocrine gland, producing enzymes that are secreted into the gut to help digest food, and an endocrine gland, secreting a cocktail of hormones, including insulin, which is manufactured by beta cells that reside in endocrine islets within the "sea" of exocrine tissue.
Plasma glucose increases after a meal, and, in healthy people, insulin is secreted to instruct the body to take up the glucose and store it in the liver or muscles to bring blood glucose levels down. In diabetes, the glucose metabolism is misregulated: In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the beta cells, which then are unable to produce sufficient insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form of the condition, patients have sufficient beta cells, which still secrete insulin, but the body is unable to respond correctly, and plasma glucose remains constantly elevated.
CRF, in concert with its receptor, CRFR1, has long been known as key to the body's response to various forms of stress, but the pair is also involved in many more processes, including a number with direct ties to metabolism. As early as the 1980s, studies had suggested that pancreas cells can respond to CRF, but the few limited observations did not demonstrate
|Contact: Gina Kirchweger|