Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The pancreatic islets contain beta-cells and alpha-cells, which are responsible for secreting two principal gluco-regulatory hormones; insulin and glucagon, respectively. However, they also contain delta-cells, a relatively sparse cell type that secretes somatostatin (SST). These cells have a complex morphology allowing them to establish an extensive communication network throughout the islet, despite their scarcity. Delta-cells are electrically excitable cells, and SST secretion is released in a glucose- and KATP-dependent manner. SST hyperpolarises the alpha-cell membrane and suppresses exocytosis. In this way, islet SST potently inhibits glucagon release. Recent studies investigating the activity of delta-cells have revealed they are electrically coupled to beta-cells via gap junctions, suggesting the delta-cell is more than just a paracrine inhibitor. In this Review, we summarize delta-cell morphology, function, and the role of SST signalling for regulating islet hormonal output. A distinguishing feature of this Review is that we attempt to use the discovery of this gap junction pathway, together with what is already known about delta-cells, to reframe the role of these cells in both health and disease. In particular, we argue that the discovery of gap junction communication between delta-cells and beta-cells provides new insights into the contribution of delta-cells to the islet hormonal defects observed in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This reappraisal of the delta-cell is important as it may offer novel insights into how the physiology of this cell can be utilised to restore islet function in diabetes.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date