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Glucagon is a 29 amino acid polypeptide acting as an important hormone in carbohydrate metabolism. The polypeptide has a molecular weight of 3485 daltons and was discovered in 1923 by Kimball and Murlin.

Its primary structure is:


Table of contents
1 History
2 Physiology
3 Pathology
4 Pharmacological application of glucagon
5 See also


In the 1920s, Kimball and Murlin studied pancreatic extracts and found a additional substance with hyperglycemic properties. Glucagon was sequenced in the late 1950s, but a more complete understanding of its role in physiology and disease was not established until the 1970s when a specific radioimmunoassay was developed.


The hormone is synthesized and secreted from alpha cells of pancreatic islets (Islets of Langerhans).

Glucagon maintains the level of glucose in the blood by binding to specific receptors on hepatocytes causing the liver to release its intracellular stores of glucose (in the form of glycogen). As these stores become depleted, glucagon then encourages the liver to synthesize additional glucose by gluconeogenesis. This glucose is released into the bloodstream. Both theses mechanisms leading to glucose release by liver prevent the development of hypoglycaemia.


Abnormally elevated levels of glucagon may be caused by pancreatic cancers such as glucagonoma, symptoms of which include diabetes mellitus and necrolytic migratory erythema (NME).

Pharmacological application of glucagon

An injectable form of glucagon is essential first aid in cases of severe hypoglycemia. The glucagon is injected and quickly raises blood glucose levels. It works only if there is glycogen stored in liver cells, and it won't work again until those stores are replenished.

Glucagon has also inotropic properties. Although its use is impracticable in heart failure, it has some value in treatmeant of myocardium depression secondary to betablocker overdose.

See also