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Diabetes. 2001 May;50(5):1021-9.

Beta-cell mass dynamics in Zucker diabetic fatty rats. Rosiglitazone prevents the rise in net cell death.

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  • 1Diabetes Research Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. finegood@sfu.ca


The evolution of diabetes in the male leptin receptor-deficient (fa/fa) Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rat is associated with disruption of normal islet architecture, beta-cell degranulation, and increased beta-cell death. It is unknown whether these changes precede or develop as a result of the increasing plasma glucose, or whether the increased beta-cell death can be prevented. Early intervention with thiazolidinediones prevents disruption of the islet architecture. To determine the specific effects of rosiglitazone (RSG) on beta-cell mass dynamics, male fa/fa (obese) and +/fa or +/+ (lean) rats age 6 weeks were fed either chow (control group [CN]) or chow mixed with rosiglitazone (RSG group) at a dosage of 10 micromol. kg(-1) body wt.day(-1). Rats were killed after 0, 2, 4, 6, or 10 weeks of treatment (at age 6, 8, 10, 12, or 16 weeks). Plasma glucose increased from 8.9 +/- 0.4 mmol/l at 0 weeks to 34.2 +/- 1.8 mmol/l (P = 0.0001) at 6 weeks of treatment in obese CN rats and fell from 8.0 +/- 0.3 to 6.3 +/- 0.4 mmol/l in obese RSG rats (P = 0.02). beta-cell mass fell by 51% from 2 to 6 weeks of treatment (ages 8-12 weeks) in obese CN rats (6.9 +/- 0.9 to 3.4 +/- 0.5 mg; P < 0.05), whereas beta-cell mass was unchanged in obese RSG rats. At 10 weeks of treatment (age 16 weeks), beta-cell mass in obese CN rats was only 56% of that of obese RSG rats (4.4 +/- 0.4 vs. 7.8 +/- 0.3 mg, respectively; P = 0.0001). The beta-cell replication rate fell from a baseline value of 0.95 +/- 0.12% in lean rats and 0.94 +/- 0.07% in obese rats (at 0 weeks) to approximately 0.3-0.5% in all groups by 6 weeks of treatment (age 12 weeks). After 10 weeks of treatment, beta-cell replication was higher in obese RSG rats than in CN rats (0.59 +/- 0.14 vs. 0.28 +/- 0.05%, respectively; P < 0.02). Application of our mass balance model of beta-cell turnover indicated that net beta-cell death was fivefold higher in obese CN rats as compared with RSG rats after 6 weeks of treatment (age 12 weeks). The increase in beta-cell death in obese CN rats during the 6-week observation period was well correlated with the increase in plasma glucose (r2 = 0.90, P < 0.0001). These results suggest that the development of hyperglycemia in ZDF rats is concomitant with increasing net beta-cell death. beta-cell proliferation compensates for the increased beta-cell loss at a time when plasma glucose is moderately elevated, but compensation ultimately fails and the plasma glucose levels increase beyond approximately 20 mmol/l. Treatment with rosiglitazone, previously shown to reduce insulin resistance, prevents the loss of beta-cell mass in obese ZDF rats by maintaining beta-cell proliferation and preventing increased net beta-cell death.

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