It is now recognized that the metabolic disorders observed in diabetes are not, or not only due to the lack of insulin or insulin resistance, but also to elevated glucagon secretion. Accordingly, selective glucagon receptor antagonists are now proposed as a novel strategy for the treatment of diabetes. However, besides its metabolic actions, glucagon also influences kidney function. The glucagon receptor is expressed in the thick ascending limb, distal tubule, and collecting duct, and glucagon regulates the transepithelial transport of several solutes in these nephron segments. Moreover, it also influences solute transport in the proximal tubule, possibly by an indirect mechanism. This review summarizes the knowledge accumulated over the last 30 years about the influence of glucagon on the renal handling of electrolytes and urea. It also describes a possible novel role of glucagon in the short-term regulation of potassium homeostasis. Several original findings suggest that pancreatic α-cells may express a “potassium sensor” sensitive to changes in plasma K concentration and could respond by adapting glucagon secretion that, in turn, would regulate urinary K excretion. By their combined actions, glucagon and insulin, working in a combinatory mode, could ensure an independent regulation of both plasma glucose and plasma K concentrations. The results and hypotheses reviewed here suggest that the use of glucagon receptor antagonists for the treatment of diabetes should take into account their potential consequences on electrolyte handling by the kidney.
- membrane receptor
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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