Postprandial hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes is characterized by impaired insulin secretion and action, decreased glucose effectiveness and defective suppression of glucagon secretion. Newly available therapies for type 2 diabetes target the pathway of the incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Oral inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) raise the level of endogenous GLP-1 by inhibiting its clearance thereby lowering fasting and postprandial glucose concentrations. Unlike compounds which act as agonists of the GLP-1 receptor, DPP-4 inhibitors are not associated with significant effects on gastrointestinal motility, which led to a controversy around the mechanisms responsible for their glucose-lowering effects. Here we review the evidence in regards to the mechanisms whereby DPP-4 inhibitors lower glucose concentrations. Their effects are most likely mediated by an increase in endogenous GLP-1, although additional mechanisms may be involved. The pharmacology, efficacy and safety of vildagliptin, a novel DPP-4 inhibitor, are also discussed
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