Insulin is a polypeptide hormone of major physiological importance in the regulation of fuel homeostasis in animals (reviewed in refs 1, 2). It is synthesized by the β-cells of pancreatic islets, and circulating insulin levels are regulated by several small molecules, notably glucose, amino acids, fatty acids and certain pharmacological agents. Insulin consists of two polypeptide chains (A and B, linked by disulphide bonds) that are derived from the proteolytic cleavage of proinsulin, generating equimolar amounts of the mature insulin and a connecting peptide (C-peptide). Humans, like most vertebrates, contain one proinsulin gene3,4, although several species, including mice5 and rats6,7, have two highly homologous insulin genes. We have studied the regulation of serum insulin levels and of insulin gene expression by generating a series of transgenic mice containing the human insulin gene. We report here that the human insulin gene is expressed in a tissue-specific manner in the islets of these transgenic mice, and that serum human insulin levels are properly regulated by glucose, amino acids and tolbutamide, an oral hypoglycaemic agent.
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