These preclinical and clinical data regarding pancreatic β-cell function must be viewed as preliminary, and require further investigation. If confirmed, the ability to alter the natural progression of β-cell loss in T2DM and/or to reduce insulin resistance would be of significant clinical value.
Incretin effects on other causes of T2DM
Both the GLP-1 agonists and the DPP-4 inhibitors affect other mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of T2DM. Several trials have shown a significant reduction in fasting glucagon secretion with GLP-1 agonist37 or DPP-4 inhibitor treatment.43,46,47 The addition of exenatide or liraglutide to metformin, a sulfonylurea, or both for 26 weeks resulted in a reduction in fasting glucagon secretion of 12.3 and 19.4 ng/L, respectively (P=.1436), after 26 weeks.37 Addition of saxagliptin to a submaximal dose of a sulfonylurea resulted in a reduction of glucagon secretion of 0.8 ng/L compared with an increase of 4.5 ng/L with uptitration of the sulfonylurea alone for 24 weeks. A 2-week crossover trial comparing exenatide with sitagliptin showed that compared with sitagliptin, exenatide reduced postprandial glucagon by 12% (P=.0011)47 (FIGURE 2); in addition, exenatide slowed the gastric emptying rate by 44% (P<.0001), with a commensurate decrease in total caloric intake of 134 kcal with exenatide vs an increase of 130 kcal with sitagliptin (P=.0227).47
FIGURE 2 Reduction in glucagon secretion with exenatide or sitagliptin47
Effects of exenatide versus sitagliptin on postprandial glucose, insulin and glucagon secretion, gastric emptying, and caloric intake: a randomized, cross-over study. DeFronzo RA, Okerson T, Viswanathan P, Guan X, Holcombe JH, MacConell L. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2008, reprinted with permission of Taylor & Francis Group.
The multifactorial nature of the pathogenesis of T2DM provides an opportunity to combine treatments that act upon different mechanisms. In addition to improving insulin resistance and pancreatic β-cell dysfunction, the GLP-1 agonists and DPP-4 inhibitors improve the impaired incretin response, as well as increase insulin secretion and reduce glucagon secretion, both in a glucose-dependent manner. As a result of these multiple actions, the GLP-1 agonists and DPP-4 inhibitors lower both fasting and postprandial glucose levels. The effects of GLP-1 agonists tend to be greater, probably because they produce pharmacologic levels of GLP-1 compared to physiologic levels with the DPP-4 inhibitors. Another difference is that unlike the DPP-4 inhibitors, the GLP-1 agonists also slow gastric emptying and promote satiety.