Metabolic regulation in mammals requires communication between multiple organs and tissues. The rise in the incidence of obesity and associated metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes, has renewed interest in interorgan communication. We used mouse models to explore the mechanism whereby obesity enhances pancreatic β cell mass, pathophysiological compensation for insulin resistance. We found that hepatic activation of extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) signaling induced pancreatic β cell proliferation through a neuronal-mediated relay of metabolic signals. This metabolic relay from the liver to the pancreas is involved in obesity-induced islet expansion. In mouse models of insulin-deficient diabetes, liver-selective activation of ERK signaling increased β cell mass and normalized serum glucose levels. Thus, interorgan metabolic relay systems may serve as valuable targets in regenerative treatments for diabetes.
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