Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Beta cell


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants used for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Here we demonstrate that incubation (2 h) of murine islets or Min6 β cell line with the SSRIs paroxetine, fluoxetine or sertraline inhibited insulin-induced Tyr phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-2 protein and the activation of its downstream targets Akt and S6K1. Inhibition was dose-dependent with half-maximal effects at ~15-20 μM. It correlated with a rapid phosphorylation and activation of the IRS kinase GSK3β. Introduction of GSK3β-siRNAs eliminated the inhibitory effects of the SSRIs. Inhibition of IRS-2 action by 30 μM SSRIs was associated with a marked inhibition of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from murine and human pancreatic islets. Secretion induced by basic secretagogues (KCl and Arg) was not affected by these drugs. Prolonged treatment (16h) of Min6 cells with sertraline resulted in the induction of iNOS; activation of an ER stress and the initiation of the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR), manifested by enhanced transcription of ATF4 and CHOP. This triggered an apoptotic process, manifested by enhanced caspase 3/7 activity, that resulted in beta cell death. These findings implicate SSRIs as inhibitors of IRS protein function and insulin action through the activation of GSK3β. They further suggest that SSRIs inhibit insulin secretion; induce the UPR; activate an apoptotic process and trigger beta cell death. Given that SSRIs promote insulin resistance while inhibiting insulin secretion, these drugs might accelerate the transition from an insulin resistant state to overt diabetes.

Concepts: Insulin, Islets of Langerhans, Beta cell, Serotonin, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Sertraline, Fluoxetine


Loss of function mutations in EIF2AK3, encoding the Pancreatic Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) Kinase, PERK, are associated with dysfunction of the endocrine pancreas and diabetes. However to date it has not been possible to uncouple the long term developmental effects of PERK deficiency from sensitization to physiological levels of ER unfolded protein stress upon interruption of PERK-modulation of protein synthesis rates. Here we report that a selective PERK inhibitor acutely deregulates protein synthesis in freshly isolated islets of Langerhans, across a range of glucose concentrations. Acute loss of the PERK-mediated strand of the unfolded protein response leads to rapid accumulation of misfolded pro-insulin in cultured beta cells and is associated with a kinetic defect in pro-insulin processing. These in vitro observations uncouple the latent role of PERK in beta cell development from the regulation of unfolded protein flux through the ER and attest to the importance of the latter in beta cell proteostasis.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Enzyme, Insulin, Islets of Langerhans, Pancreas, Beta cell, Amylin


VEGF-A expression in beta cells is critical for pancreatic development, formation of islet-specific vasculature and insulin secretion. However, two key questions remain. First, is VEGF-A release from beta cells coupled to VEGF-A production in beta cells? Second, how is the VEGF-A response by beta cells affected by metabolic signals? Here, we show that secretion of VEGF-A, but not VEGF-A gene transcription, in either cultured islets or purified pancreatic beta cells, was significantly reduced early on during low glucose conditions. In vivo, a sustained hypoglycemia in mice was induced with an insulin pellet, which resulted in a significant reduction in beta cell mass. This loss of beta cell mass could be significantly rescued with continuous delivery of exogenous VEGF-A, which had no effect on beta cell mass in normoglycemic mice. In addition, an increase in apoptotic endothelial cells during hypoglycemia preceded an increase in apoptotic beta cells. Both endothelial and beta cell apoptosis were prevented by exogenous VEGF-A, suggesting a possible causative relationship between reduced VEGF-A and the loss of islet vasculature and beta cells. Furthermore, in none of these experimental groups did beta cell proliferation and islet vessel density change, suggesting a tightly regulated balance between these two cellular compartments. The average islet size decreased in hypoglycemia, which was also prevented by exogenous VEGF-A. Taken together, our data suggest that VEGF-A release in beta cells is independent of VEGF-A synthesis. Beta cell mass can be regulated through modulated release of VEGF-A from beta cells based on physiological need.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Enzyme, Insulin, Islets of Langerhans, Pancreas, Beta cell, Insulinoma


Pancreatic-duodenal homeobox-1 (Pdx1) and v-maf musculoaponeurotic fibrosarcoma oncogene homolog A (Mafa) play important roles in sustaining the pancreatic beta-cell differentiation phenotype. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) is also a regulator of cell differentiation. Our previous study revealed that glycated serum (GS) causes beta-cell dedifferentiation by down-regulating beta-cell specific genes, such as insulin and Pdx1. Here, we show that GS enhanced the cellular accumulation of ubiquitin-conjugated proteins, including Pdx1 and Mafa, in pancreatic beta-cells. Pharmacologic inhibition of proteolytic activity restored the protein levels of Pdx1 and Mafa, whereas inhibition of de novo protein synthesis accelerated their degradation. These findings suggest that both Pdx1 and Mafa are regulated at the post-transcriptional level. We further show that activation of PPARγ could restore GS-induced reduction of Pdx1 and Mafa protein levels, leading to improved insulin secretion and synthesis. Moreover, ectopic expression of Bcl-xl, a mitochondrial regulator, also restored Pdx1 and Mafa protein levels, linking mitochondrial function to Pdx1 and Mafa stability. Taken together, our results identify a key role of PPARγ in regulating pancreatic beta-cell function by improving the stability of Pdx1 and Mafa proteins.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Cell, Metabolism, Insulin, Beta cell


Zinc is essential for the activities of pancreatic beta-cells, especially insulin storage and secretion. Insulin secretion leads to co-release of zinc which contributes to the paracrine communication in the pancreatic islets. Zinc-transporting proteins (zinc-regulated transporter, iron-regulated transporter-like proteins [ZIPs] and zinc transporters [ZnTs]) and metal-buffering proteins (metallothioneins, MTs) tightly regulate intracellular zinc homeostasis. The present study investigated how modulation of cellular zinc availability affects beta-cell function using INS-1E cells.

Concepts: Enzyme, Insulin, Cell biology, Islets of Langerhans, Glucagon, Pancreas, Beta cell, Amylin


To characterize the EndoC-βH1 cell line as a model for human beta cells and evaluate its beta cell functionality, focusing on insulin secretion, proliferation, apoptosis and ER stress, with the objective to assess its potential as a screening platform for identification of novel anti-diabetic drug candidates.

Concepts: Cell, Insulin, Secretion, Cell biology, Islets of Langerhans, Pancreas, Beta cell, Insulinoma


Although diabetes results in part from a deficiency of normal pancreatic beta cells, inducing human beta cells to regenerate is difficult. Reasoning that insulinomas hold the “genomic recipe” for beta cell expansion, we surveyed 38 human insulinomas to obtain insights into therapeutic pathways for beta cell regeneration. An integrative analysis of whole-exome and RNA-sequencing data was employed to extensively characterize the genomic and molecular landscape of insulinomas relative to normal beta cells. Here, we show at the pathway level that the majority of the insulinomas display mutations, copy number variants and/or dysregulation of epigenetic modifying genes, most prominently in the polycomb and trithorax families. Importantly, these processes are coupled to co-expression network modules associated with cell proliferation, revealing candidates for inducing beta cell regeneration. Validation of key computational predictions supports the concept that understanding the molecular complexity of insulinoma may be a valuable approach to diabetes drug discovery.Diabetes results in part from a deficiency of functional pancreatic beta cells. Here, the authors study the genomic and epigenetic landscapes of human insulinomas to gain insight into possible pathways for therapeutic beta cell regeneration, highlighting epigenetic genes and pathways.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Insulin, Chromosome, Pancreas, Beta cell, Insulinoma


The arrangement of β cells within islets of Langerhans is critical for insulin release through the generation of rhythmic activity. A privileged role for individual β cells in orchestrating these responses has long been suspected, but not directly demonstrated. We show here that the β cell population in situ is operationally heterogeneous. Mapping of islet functional architecture revealed the presence of hub cells with pacemaker properties, which remain stable over recording periods of 2 to 3 hr. Using a dual optogenetic/photopharmacological strategy, silencing of hubs abolished coordinated islet responses to glucose, whereas specific stimulation restored communication patterns. Hubs were metabolically adapted and targeted by both pro-inflammatory and glucolipotoxic insults to induce widespread β cell dysfunction. Thus, the islet is wired by hubs, whose failure may contribute to type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Concepts: Insulin, Diabetes mellitus type 2, Diabetes mellitus, Glucose, Islets of Langerhans, Glucagon, Pancreas, Beta cell


Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is due to the selective destruction of islet beta cells by immune cells. Current therapies focused on repressing the immune attack or stimulating beta cell regeneration still have limited clinical efficacy. Therefore, it is timely to identify innovative targets to dampen the immune process, while promoting beta cell survival and function. Liver receptor homologue-1 (LRH-1) is a nuclear receptor that represses inflammation in digestive organs, and protects pancreatic islets against apoptosis. Here, we show that BL001, a small LRH-1 agonist, impedes hyperglycemia progression and the immune-dependent inflammation of pancreas in murine models of T1DM, and beta cell apoptosis in islets of type 2 diabetic patients, while increasing beta cell mass and insulin secretion. Thus, we suggest that LRH-1 agonism favors a dialogue between immune and islet cells, which could be druggable to protect against diabetes mellitus.

Concepts: Immune system, Signal transduction, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Islets of Langerhans, Pancreas, Beta cell


Around 0.3% of newborns will develop autoimmunity to pancreatic beta cells in childhood and subsequently develop type 1 diabetes before adulthood. Primary prevention of type 1 diabetes will require early intervention in genetically at-risk infants. The objective of this study was to determine to what extent genetic scores (two previous genetic scores and a merged genetic score) can improve the prediction of type 1 diabetes.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Biology, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Islets of Langerhans, Beta cell