Bile Modulates Secretion of Incretins and Insulin: A Study of Human Extrahepatic Cholestasis

Teresa Mezza, Simona Moffa, Pietro Manuel Ferraro, Giuseppe Quero, Umberto Capece, Andrea Carfì, Chiara M A Cefalo, Francesca Cinti, Gian Pio Sorice, Flavia Impronta, Andrea Mari, Alfredo Pontecorvi, Sergio Alfieri, Jens J Holst, Andrea Giaccari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Changes in bile flow after bariatric surgery may beneficially modulate secretion of insulin and incretins, leading to diabetes remission. However, the exact mechanism(s) involved is still unclear. Here, we propose an alternative method to investigate the relationship between alterations in physiological bile flow and insulin and incretin secretion by studying changes in gut-pancreatic function in extrahepatic cholestasis in nondiabetic humans.

METHODS: To pursue this aim, 58 nondiabetic patients with recent diagnosis of periampullary tumors underwent an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), and a subgroup of 16 patients also underwent 4-hour mixed meal tests and hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps.

RESULTS: The analysis of the entire cohort revealed a strong inverse correlation between total bilirubin levels and insulinogenic index. When subjects were divided on the basis of bilirubin levels, used as a marker of altered bile flow, subjects with high bilirubin levels displayed inferior glucose control and decreased insulin secretion during the OGTT. Altered bile flow elicited a markedly greater increase in glucagon and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) secretion at fasting state, and following the meal, both glucagon and GLP-1 levels remained increased over time. Conversely, Glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) levels were comparable at the fasting state, whereas the increase following meal ingestion was significantly blunted with high bilirubin levels. We reveal strong correlations between total bilirubin and glucagon and GLP-1 levels.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that acute extrahepatic cholestasis determines major impairment in enteroendocrine gut-pancreatic secretory function. The altered bile flow may determine a direct deleterious effect on β-cell function, perhaps mediated by the impairment of incretin hormone function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2685-2694
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019


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