Rat pancreatic islets contain a Ca2+-activated and thiol-dependent transglutaminase (EC 2.3.2.13) comparable in activity with that found in rat liver, lung and spleen. The Ca2+-dependence of this enzyme is such that half-maximal velocity was obtained in the region of 40 microM. Preincubation of rat islets with primary-amine substrates of transglutaminase (monodansylcadaverine, methylamine, ethylamine, propylamine and cystamine) led to an inhibition of glucose-stimulated insulin release by these amines. Kinetic analysis of the competitive substrates methylamine, monodansylcadaverine, propylamine and ethylamine for their ability to inhibit islet transglutaminase activity indicated a potency that matched their ability to inhibit glucose-stimulated insulin release. When these amines were tested for their effects on glucose-stimulated protein synthesis and glucose utilization, the most potent inhibitor of insulin release, monodansylcadaverine, had no effect on either process at 100 microM. The amines cystamine, ethylamine, methylamine and propylamine had variable effects on these metabolic processes. For ethylamine, methylamine and propylamine, concentrations were found which inhibited glucose-stimulated insulin release in a manner which was found to be independent of their effects on either glucose oxidation or protein synthesis. Primary amines may therefore inhibit insulin release through their incorporation by islet transglutaminase into normal cross-linking sites. A role for protein cross-linking in the secretory mechanism is suggested.

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