Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Medical Biophysics


Dr. Savita Dhanvantari


The prohormone proglucagon encodes for multiple peptide hormones, including glucagon, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), and GLP-2, produced through tissue-specific processing by prohormone convertase (PC) 1/3 and PC2. In alpha cells, PC2 yields glucagon, the major counter-regulatory hormone to insulin, which together, control glucose homeostasis. In contrast, GLP-1 and GLP2 are mainly produced in intestinal L-cells by PC1/3. GLP-1 stimulates insulin secretion following a meal, and therefore has opposing function to glucagon regulating glucose homeostasis; in contrast, GLP-2 enhances gut nutrient absorption. Efficient sorting of proglucagon to secretory granules is required for nutrient-regulated secretion. The aim of this thesis is to discover the molecular mechanisms by which proglucagon is targeted to secretory granules, which ensures that proglucagon is correctly processed to mature hormones, and is necessary for prompt physiologic response to nutrient status. In this thesis, we identify several sorting signals within the hormone domains of proglucagon that encode targeting information. Using quantitative immunofluorescence microscopy and co-localization analyses, I was able to determine the molecular nature by which glucagon and GLP-1 enter granules. Despite these two hormones sharing a large degree of structural homology, it is their particular alpha-helix structures that enable the sorting of proglucagon. Further, I provide evidence that proglucagon is first sorted to granules prior to being processed to active hormones. Furthermore, I have identified carboxypeptidase E in the mechanism by which glucagon sorts within alpha cells. Together, each hormone carries with it a unique sorting “signature” to efficiently reach its destination, and allows alpha and L-cells to tightly regulate nutrient homeostasis.