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Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 621249, 22 pages
Review Article

Protein-Mediated Interactions of Pancreatic Islet Cells

Department of Cell Physiology and Metabolism, University of Geneva School of Medicine, 1 rue Michel-Servet, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland

Received 19 November 2012; Accepted 10 December 2012

Academic Editors: B. R. Gauthier, A. Pileggi, and D. Sakamuro

Copyright © 2013 Paolo Meda. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The islets of Langerhans collectively form the endocrine pancreas, the organ that is soley responsible for insulin secretion in mammals, and which plays a prominent role in the control of circulating glucose and metabolism. Normal function of these islets implies the coordination of different types of endocrine cells, noticeably of the beta cells which produce insulin. Given that an appropriate secretion of this hormone is vital to the organism, a number of mechanisms have been selected during evolution, which now converge to coordinate beta cell functions. Among these, several mechanisms depend on different families of integral membrane proteins, which ensure direct (cadherins, N-CAM, occludin, and claudins) and paracrine communications (pannexins) between beta cells, and between these cells and the other islet cell types. Also, other proteins (integrins) provide communication of the different islet cell types with the materials that form the islet basal laminae and extracellular matrix. Here, we review what is known about these proteins and their signaling in pancreatic β-cells, with particular emphasis on the signaling provided by Cx36, given that this is the integral membrane protein involved in cell-to-cell communication, which has so far been mostly investigated for effects on beta cell functions.