The role of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in the generation of the metabolic signal for insulin secretion was studied after stable overexpression in INS-1 and RINm5F insulin-producing cells. INS-1 cells with a 25-fold overexpression of LDH-A, the highest level achieved, showed a 20–30% decrease in the glucose oxidation rate at glucose concentrations above 5mM when compared with control cells, whereas values were unchanged at lower glucose concentrations. Lactate release increased in parallel with a decrease in the glucose oxidation rate. However, the INS-1 cell glucose-induced insulin secretory response, together with the rate of glucose utilization, were not significantly affected by LDH-A overexpression. Despite 3-fold overexpression of LDH-A in glucose-unresponsive RINm5F cells, there was no change in insulin secretion, glucose metabolism or lactate production in these cells. Exogenously added pyruvate and lactate potentiated glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in INS-1 cells, an effect that was abolished after LDH-A overexpression. Both compounds significantly decreased glucose oxidation rates in control cells. After overexpression of LDH-A in INS-1 cells, the effects of pyruvate and lactate on glucose oxidation were diminished. On the other hand, after LDH-A overexpression, both glycolytic metabolites decreased the glucose utilization rate at 5mM glucose. The present data suggest that the level of LDH expression in insulin-secreting cells is critical for correct channelling of pyruvate towards mitochondrial metabolism. Interestingly, glucokinase-mediated glycolytic flux was decreased after LDH-A overexpression. Thus preferential channelling of glucose towards aerobic metabolism by glucokinase may be determined, at least in part, by the low level of constitutive expression of LDH-A in pancreatic β-cells. In conclusion, the level of LDH expression in insulin-secreting cells is an important determinant of the physiological insulin-secretory capacity, and also determines how pyruvate and lactate affect insulin secretion.

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