Microdissected beta-cell-rich pancreatic islets of ob/ob mice were used in studies of the relationship between intracellular pH (pHi) and 45Ca2+ uptake and insulin release. Stepwise increases in extracellular pH (pHo) from 6.80 to 8.00 resulted in a parallel, although less pronounced, elevation of pHi from 7.24 to 7.69. Experimental conditions that alkalinize the islet cell interior, i.e. addition of 5 mM-NH4+, sudden withdrawal of extracellular bicarbonate buffer or increase in pHo, induced insulin secretion in the absence of other types of secretory stimulation (1 mM-D-glucose). Intracellular acidification by lowering pHo below 7.40 or sudden addition of bicarbonate buffer did not induce insulin secretion. The removal of extracellular bicarbonate buffer, increase in pHo from 7.40 to 8.00, or the addition of 5 mM-L-5-hydroxytryptophan or 5 mM-NH4+, which all alkalinize the islet cells and induce insulin secretion, also increased the La3+-non-displaceable 45Ca2+ uptake in the presence of 1 mM-D-glucose. The results suggest that intracellular alkalinization in beta-cells can trigger insulin secretion. Taken together with the fact that D-glucose increases pHi in the islet cells, the results also point to the possibility that alkalinization may be a link in the stimulus-secretion coupling sequence in beta-cells.

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