Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Murthy S Karnam

Second Advisor

Arun J Sanyal


The discovery that bile acids act as endogenous ligands of the membrane receptor TGR5 and the nuclear receptor FXR increased their significance as regulators of cholesterol, glucose and energy metabolism. Activation of TGR5, expressed on enteroendocrine L cells, by bile acids caused secretion of GLP-1, which stimulates insulin secretion from pancreatic β cells. Expression of TGR5 on pancreatic islet cells and the direct effect of bile acids on the endocrine functions of pancreas, however, are not fully understood. The aim of this study was to identify expression of TGR5 in pancreatic islet cells and determine the effect of bile acids on insulin secretion. Expression of TGR5 was identified by quantitative PCR and western blot in islets from human and mouse, and in α (αTC1-6) and β (MIN6) cells. Release of insulin, glucagon and GLP-1 were measured by ELISA. The signaling pathways coupled to TGR5 activation were identified by direct measurements such as stimulation of G proteins, adenylyl cyclase activity, PI hydrolysis and intracellular Ca2+ in response to bile acids; and confirmed by the use of selective inhibitors that block specific steps in the signaling pathway. Our studies identified expression of TGR5 receptors in β cells and demonstrated that activation of these receptors by both pharmacological ligands (oleanolic acid (OA) and INT-777) and physiological ligand (lithocholic acid, LCA) induced insulin secretion. TGR5 receptors are also expressed in α cells and, activation of TGR5 by OA, INT-777 and LCA at 5 mM glucose induced release of glucagon, which is processed from proglucagon by the selective expression of prohormone convertase 2 (PC2). However, under hyperglycemia, activation of TGR5 in α cells augmented the glucose-induced increase in GLP-1 secretion, which in turn, stimulated insulin secretion. Secretion of GLP-1 from α cells reflected TGR5-mediated increase in PC1 promoter activity and PC1 expression, which selectively converts proglucagon to GLP-1. The signaling pathway activated by TGR5 to mediate insulin and GLP-1 secretion involved Gs/cAMP/Epac/PLC-ε/Ca2+. These results provide insights into the mechanisms involved in the regulation of pancreatic α and β cell function by bile acids and may lead to new therapeutic avenues for the treatment of diabetes.


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Available for download on Saturday, November 23, 2019