During pregnancy the maternal pancreatic islets of Langerhans undergo adaptive changes to compensate for gestational insulin resistance. Kisspeptin has been shown to stimulate insulin release, through its receptor, GPR54. The placenta releases high levels of kisspeptin into the maternal circulation, suggesting a role in modulating the islet adaptation to pregnancy. In the present study we show that pharmacological blockade of endogenous kisspeptin in pregnant mice resulted in impaired glucose homeostasis. This glucose intolerance was due to a reduced insulin response to glucose as opposed to any effect on insulin sensitivity. A β cell–specific GPR54-knockdown mouse line was found to exhibit glucose intolerance during pregnancy, with no phenotype observed outside of pregnancy. Furthermore, in pregnant women circulating kisspeptin levels significantly correlated with insulin responses to oral glucose challenge and were significantly lower in women with gestational diabetes (GDM) compared with those without GDM. Thus, kisspeptin represents a placental signal that plays a physiological role in the islet adaptation to pregnancy, maintaining maternal glucose homeostasis by acting through the β cell GPR54 receptor. Our data suggest reduced placental kisspeptin production, with consequent impaired kisspeptin-dependent β cell compensation, may be a factor in the development of GDM in humans.
James E. Bowe, Thomas G. Hill, Katharine F. Hunt, Lorna I.F. Smith, Sian J.S. Simpson, Stephanie A. Amiel, Peter M. Jones