Divergent effects of liraglutide, exendin-4, and sitagliptin on beta-cell mass and indicators of pancreatitis in a mouse model of hyperglycaemia

Angeles Mondragon, Daniel Davidsson, Styliana Kyriakoudi, Annika Bertling, Rosa Gomes-Faria, Patrizia Cohen, Stephen Rothery, Pauline Chabosseau, Guy A Rutter, Gabriela da Silva Xavier

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AIMS: Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) inhibitors improve glucose tolerance by still incompletely understood mechanisms. Each class of antihyperglycemic drugs has also been proposed to increase pancreatitis risk. Here, we compare systematically the effects of two widely-used GLP-1 analogues, liraglutide and exendin-4, and the DPP4 inhibitor, sitagliptin, in the mouse.

METHODS: C57BL6 mice were maintained for 131 days on a normal diet (ND) or a diet comprising 60% fat (HFD) before measurements of fasting blood glucose and insulin, and intraperitoneal glucose tolerance. Beta- and alpha- cell volume, and Reg3b immunoreactivity, were measured by immunohistochemical analysis of pancreatic slices.

RESULTS: Whereas liraglutide (200 µg/kg) and exendin-4 (10 µg/kg) treatment reduced body weight and/or improved glucose tolerance, sitagliptin (10 mg/kg) was without effect on either parameter. Liraglutide caused a sharp reduction in beta-cell mass in both ND and HFD mice, whereas exendin-4 exerted no effect. By contrast, sitagliptin unmasked an action of high fat diet to increase beta-cell mass. Reg3B positive area was augmented by all three agents in normal chow-fed mice, whilst sitagliptin and exendin-4, but not liraglutide, affected this parameter in HFD animals. Correspondingly sitagliptin, but not the GLP-1 analogues, increased circulating amylase levels in ND and HFD mice.

CONCLUSIONS: Liraglutide improves glucose tolerance in the mouse whilst exerting relatively modest effects on pancreatitis risk. Conversely, exendin-4 and sitagliptin, at doses which exert, respectively, minor or no effects on metabolic parameters, lead to signs of pancreatitis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e104873
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose/metabolism
  • Body Weight/drug effects
  • Dipeptidyl-Peptidase IV Inhibitors/adverse effects
  • Hyperglycemia/complications
  • Hypoglycemic Agents/adverse effects
  • Insulin/metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells/drug effects
  • Liraglutide/adverse effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pancreas/drug effects
  • Pancreatitis/chemically induced
  • Peptides/adverse effects
  • Sitagliptin Phosphate/adverse effects
  • Venoms/adverse effects


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