Measurement of pulsatile insulin secretion: Rationale and methodology

Marcello C. Laurenti, Aleksey Matveyenko, Adrian Vella

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Pancreatic β-cells are responsible for the synthesis and exocytosis of insulin in response to an increase in circulating glucose. Insulin secretion occurs in a pulsatile manner, with oscillatory pulses superimposed on a basal secretion rate. Insulin pulses are a marker of β-cell health, and secretory parameters, such as pulse amplitude, time interval and frequency distribution, are impaired in obesity, aging and type 2 diabetes. In this review, we detail the mechanisms of insulin production and β-cell synchronization that regulate pulsatile insulin secretion, and we discuss the challenges to consider when measuring fast oscillatory secretion in vivo. These include the anatomical difficulties of measuring portal vein insulin noninvasively in humans before the hormone is extracted by the liver and quickly removed from the circulation. Peripheral concentrations of insulin or C-peptide, a peptide cosecreted with insulin, can be used to estimate their secretion profile, but mathematical deconvolution is required. Parametric and nonparametric approaches to the deconvolution problem are evaluated, alongside the assumptions and trade-offs required for their application in the quantifi-cation of unknown insulin secretory rates from known peripheral concentrations. Finally, we discuss the therapeutical implication of targeting impaired pulsatile secretion and its diagnostic value as an early indicator of β-cell stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number409
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • C-peptide kinetics
  • Hormone deconvolution
  • Insulin pulses
  • Pulsatile insulin secretion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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