Glucagon like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and GLP-2 are hormones secreted by intestinal L cells that stimulate glucose-dependent insulin secretion and regulate intestinal growth, respectively. Mice with deletion of the glucagon receptor (Gcgr) have high levels of circulating GLP-1 and GLP-2. We sought to determine whether the increased level of the glucagon-like peptides is due to L cell hyperplasia. We found, first, that high levels of the glucagon-like peptides increase L cell number but does not affect the number of other intestinal epithelial cell types. Second, a large proportion of ileal L cells of Gcgr-/- mice coexpressed glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP). Cells coexpressing GIP and GLP-1 are termed LK cells. Third, the augmentation in L cell number was due to a higher rate of proliferation of L cell progenitors rather than to the entrance of mature L cells into the cell cycle. Fourth, a high concentration of the glucagon-like peptides in the circulation augmented the mRNA levels of transcription factors expressed by late but not early enteroendocrine progenitors. Fifth, the administration of exendin 9-39, a GLP-1 receptor antagonist, resulted in a decrease in the rate of L cell precursor proliferation. Finally, we determined that L cells do not express the GLP-1 receptor, suggesting that the effect of GLP-1 is mediated by paracrine and/or neuronal signals. Our results suggest that GLP-1 plays an important role in the regulation of L cell number.
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