The pancreas is an organ with a central role in nutrient breakdown, nutrient sensing and release of hormones regulating whole body nutrient homeostasis. In diabetes mellitus, the balance is broken-cells can be starving in the midst of plenty. There are indications that the incidence of diabetes type 1 and 2, and possibly pancreatogenic diabetes, is rising globally. Events leading to insulin secretion and action are complex, but there is emerging evidence that intracellular nucleotides and nucleotides are not only important as intracellular energy molecules but also as extracellular signalling molecules in purinergic signalling cascades. This signalling takes place at the level of the pancreas, where the close apposition of various cells-endocrine, exocrine, stromal and immune cells-contributes to the integrated function. Following an introduction to diabetes, the pancreas and purinergic signalling, we will focus on the role of purinergic signalling and its changes associated with diabetes in the pancreas and selected tissues/organ systems affected by hyperglycaemia and other stress molecules of diabetes. Since this is the first review of this kind, a comprehensive historical angle is taken, and common and divergent roles of receptors for nucleotides and nucleosides in different organ systems will be given. This integrated picture will aid our understanding of the challenges of the potential and currently used drugs targeted to specific organ/cells or disorders associated with diabetes.
Purinergic Signalling, 2013, Vol 9, Issue 3, p. 307-324