Alpha adrenergic blockade with phentolamine (10 μM) reduces the glucagon response to severe glucopenia (from 150 to 25 mg/dl) to 22% of the control values in the isolated perfused rat pancreas. Propranolol (10 μM) had no significant effect. Neither alpha nor beta adrenergic blockade reduced the magnitude of glucopenic suppression of insulin secretion, but phentolamine increased insulin levels before and during glucopenia. The pattern of somatostatin secretion in these experiments resembled that of insulin. Depletion of norepinephrine from sympathetic nerve endings by pretreatment with 6-hydroxydopamine lowered the pancreatic norepinephrine content to less than 20% of control values and reduced the glucagon response to glucopenia to 69% of the controls. Combined alpha and beta adrenergic blockade during less severe glucopenia (from 120 to 60 mg/dl) reduced the glucagon response to 21% of controls. However, slight glucopenia (from 100 to 80 mg/dl), which elicited only 11% increase in glucagon in the control experiments, was not altered significantly by combined alpha and beta adrenergic blockade. Morphologic studies of adrenergic nerve terminals labeled with [3H]norepinephrine revealed associations with alpha cells. It is concluded that in the isolated rat pancreas adrenergic mediation accounts for most of the glucagon but not insulin response to glucopenia. It is controlled within the pancreas itself, possibly through a direct enhancement by glucopenia of norepinephrine release from nerve endings.
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