Symbiosis of Electrical and Metabolic Oscillations in Pancreatic 𝜷-cells

Isabella Marinelli, Patrick Fletcher, Arthur Sherman, Leslie Satin, Richard Bertram

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Insulin is secreted in a pulsatile pattern, with important physiological ramifications. In pancreatic β-cells, which are the cells that synthesize insulin, insulin exocytosis is elicited by pulses of elevated intracellular Ca2+ initiated by bursts of electrical activity. In parallel with these electrical and Ca2+ oscillations are oscillations in metabolism, and the periods of all of these oscillatory processes are similar. A key question that remains unresolved is whether the electrical oscillations are responsible for the metabolic oscillations via the effects of Ca2+, or whether the metabolic oscillations are responsible for the electrical oscillations due to the effects of ATP on ATP-sensitive ion channels? Mathematical modeling is a useful tool for addressing this and related questions as modeling can aid in the design of well-focused experiments that can test the predictions of particular models and subsequently be used to improve the models in an iterative fashion. In this article, we discuss a recent mathematical model, the Integrated Oscillator Model (IOM), that was the product of many years of development. We use the model to demonstrate that the relationship between calcium and metabolism in beta cells is symbiotic: in some contexts, the electrical oscillations drive the metabolic oscillations, while in other contexts it is the opposite. We provide new insights regarding these results and illustrate that what might at first appear to be contradictory data are actually compatible when viewed holistically with the IOM.
Original languageEnglish
Article number781581
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2021


  • bursting
  • calcium
  • insulin
  • metabolism
  • oscillations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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