Glucose (20 mM) and 4-methyl-2-oxopentanoate (10 mM) both caused a pronounced stimulation of insulin release and of [3H]inositol phosphate production in rat pancreatic islets prelabelled with myo-[3H]inositol. Secretory responses to these nutrients were markedly impaired by lowering the Ca2+ concentration of the incubation medium to 10(-4)M or less, whereas stimulated inositol phosphate production was sensitive to Ca2+ within the range 10(-6)-10(-4)M. Inositol phosphate formation in response to carbamoylcholine was also found to be dependent on the presence of 10(-5)M-Ca2+ or above. Raising the concentration of K+ in the medium resulted in a progressive, Ca2+-dependent stimulation of inositol phosphate production in islets, although no significant stimulation of insulin release was observed. In islets prelabelled with myo[3H]inositol, then permeabilized by exposure to digitonin, [3H]inositol phosphate production could be triggered by raising the Ca2+ concentration from 10(-7) to 10(-5)M. This effect was dependent on the concentration of ATP and the presence of Li+, and involved detectable increases in the levels of InsP3 and InsP2 as well as InsP. A potentiation of inositol phosphate production by carbamoylcholine was observed in permeabilized islets at lower Ca2+ concentrations, although nutrient stimuli were ineffective. No significant effects were observed with guanine nucleotides or with neomycin, although NADH produced a modest increase and adriamycin a small inhibition of inositol phosphate production in permeabilized islets. These results strongly suggest that Ca2+ ions play an important role in the stimulation of inositol lipid metabolism in islets in response to nutrient secretagogues, and that inositide breakdown may actually be triggered by Ca2+ entry into the islet cells.

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