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J Biol Chem. 1999 Apr 30;274(18):12531-6.

Double-stranded RNA inhibits beta-cell function and induces islet damage by stimulating beta-cell production of nitric oxide.

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  • 1Edward A. Doisy Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63104, USA.


Viral infection has been implicated as a triggering event that may initiate beta-cell damage during the development of autoimmune diabetes. In this study, the effects of the viral replicative intermediate, double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) (in the form of synthetic polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly IC)) on islet expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), production of nitric oxide, and islet function and viability were investigated. Treatment of rat islets with poly(IC) + interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) stimulates the time- and concentration-dependent expression of iNOS and production of nitrite by rat islets. iNOS expression and nitrite production by rat islets in response to poly(IC) + IFN-gamma correlate with an inhibition of insulin secretion and islet degeneration, effects that are prevented by the iNOS inhibitor aminoguanidine (AG). We have previously shown that poly(IC) + IFN-gamma activates resident macrophages, stimulating iNOS expression, nitric oxide production and interleukin-1 (IL-1) release. In addition, in response to tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) + lipopolysaccharide, activated resident macrophages mediate beta-cell damage via intraislet IL-1 release followed by IL-1-induced iNOS expression by beta-cells. The inhibitory and destructive effects of poly(IC) + IFN-gamma, however, do not appear to require resident macrophages. Treatment of macrophage-depleted rat islets for 40 h with poly(IC) + IFN-gamma results in the expression of iNOS, production of nitrite, and inhibition of insulin secretion. The destructive effects of dsRNA + IFN-gamma on islets appear to be mediated by a direct interaction with beta-cells. Poly IC + IFN-gamma stimulates iNOS expression and inhibits insulin secretion by primary beta-cells purified by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. In addition, AG prevents the inhibitory effects of poly(IC) + IFN-gamma on glucose-stimulated insulin secretion by beta-cells. These results indicate that dsRNA + IFN-gamma interacts directly with beta-cells stimulating iNOS expression and inhibiting insulin secretion in a nitric oxide-dependent manner. These findings provide biochemical evidence for a novel mechanism by which viral infection may directly mediate the initial destruction of beta-cells during the development of autoimmune diabetes.

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