Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is an incretin hormone that potentiates glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. GLP-1 is classically produced by gut L cells; however, under certain circumstances α cells can express the prohormone convertase required for proglucagon processing to GLP-1, prohormone convertase 1/3 (PC1/3), and can produce GLP-1. However, the mechanisms through which this occurs are poorly defined. Understanding the mechanisms by which α cell PC1/3 expression can be activated may reveal new targets for diabetes treatment. Here, we demonstrate that the GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonist, liraglutide, increased α cell GLP-1 expression in a β cell GLP-1R–dependent manner. We demonstrate that this effect of liraglutide was translationally relevant in human islets through application of a new scRNA-seq technology, DART-Seq. We found that the effect of liraglutide to increase α cell PC1/3 mRNA expression occurred in a subcluster of α cells and was associated with increased expression of other β cell–like genes, which we confirmed by IHC. Finally, we found that the effect of liraglutide to increase bihormonal insulin+ glucagon+ cells was mediated by the β cell GLP-1R in mice. Together, our data validate a high-sensitivity method for scRNA-seq in human islets and identify a potentially novel GLP-1–mediated pathway regulating human α cell function.


Mridusmita Saikia, Marlena M. Holter, Leanne R. Donahue, Isaac S. Lee, Qiaonan C. Zheng, Journey L. Wise, Jenna E. Todero, Daryl J. Phuong, Darline Garibay, Reilly Coch, Kyle W. Sloop, Adolfo Garcia-Ocana, Charles G. Danko, Bethany P. Cummings


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