Islet adaptations in fetal sheep persist following chronic exposure to high norepinephrine

    1. Sean W Limesand2
    1. 1Chongqing Key Laboratory of Forage & Herbivore, College of Animal Science and Technology, Southwest University, Chongqing, China
    2. 2School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
    3. 3Department of Physiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to S W Limesand; Email: limesand{at}


    Complications in pregnancy elevate fetal norepinephrine (NE) concentrations. Previous studies in NE-infused sheep fetuses revealed that sustained exposure to high NE resulted in lower expression of α2-adrenergic receptors in islets and increased insulin secretion responsiveness after acutely terminating the NE infusion. In this study, we determined if the compensatory increase in insulin secretion after chronic elevation of NE is independent of hyperglycemia in sheep fetuses and whether it is persistent in conjunction with islet desensitization to NE. After an initial assessment of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) at 129 ± 1 days of gestation, fetuses were continuously infused for seven days with NE and maintained at euglycemia with a maternal insulin infusion. Fetal GSIS studies were performed again on days 8 and 12. Adrenergic sensitivity was determined in pancreatic islets collected at day 12. NE infusion increased (P < 0.01) fetal plasma NE concentrations and lowered (P < 0.01) basal insulin concentrations compared to vehicle-infused controls. GSIS was 1.8-fold greater (P < 0.05) in NE-infused fetuses compared to controls at both one and five days after discontinuing the infusion. Glucose-potentiated arginine-induced insulin secretion was also enhanced (P < 0.01) in NE-infused fetuses. Maximum GSIS in islets isolated from NE-infused fetuses was 1.6-fold greater (P < 0.05) than controls, but islet insulin content and intracellular calcium signaling were not different between treatments. The half-maximal inhibitory concentration for NE was 2.6-fold greater (P < 0.05) in NE-infused islets compared to controls. These findings show that chronic NE exposure and not hyperglycemia produce persistent adaptations in pancreatic islets that augment β-cell responsiveness in part through decreased adrenergic sensitivity.

    • Received 23 November 2016
    • Accepted 25 November 2016
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 25 November 2016
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