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J Endocrinol. 2002 Aug;174(2):225-31.

Mechanisms involved in the beta-cell mass increase induced by chronic sucrose feeding to normal rats.

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  • 1CENEXA, Centre of Experimental and Applied Endocrinology (UNLP-CONICET), University of La Plata School of Medicine, La Plata, Argentina.


The aim of the present study was to clarify the mechanisms by which a sucrose-rich diet (SRD) produces an increase in the pancreatic beta-cell mass in the rat. Normal Wistar rats were fed for 30 weeks either an SRD (SRD rats; 63% wt/wt), or the same diet but with starch instead of sucrose in the same proportion (CD rats). We studied body weight, serum glucose and triacylglycerol levels, endocrine tissue and beta-cell mass, beta-cell replication rate (proliferating cell nuclear antigen; PCNA), islet neogenesis (cytokeratin immunostaining) and beta-cell apoptosis (propidium iodide). Body weight (g) recorded in the SRD rats was significantly (P<0.05) larger than that of the CD group (556.0+/-8.3 vs 470.0+/-13.1). Both serum glucose and triacylglycerol levels (mmol/l) were also significantly higher (P<0.05) in SRD than in CD rats (serum glucose, 8.11+/-0.14 vs 6.62+/-0.17; triacylglycerol, 1.57+/-0.18 vs 0.47+/-0.04). The number of pancreatic islets per unit area increased significantly (P<0.05) in SRD rats (3.29+/-0.1 vs 2.01+/-0.2). A significant increment (2.6 times) in the mass of endocrine tissue was detected in SRD animals, mainly due to an increase in the beta-cell mass (P=0.0025). The islet cell replication rate, measured as the percentage of PCNA-labelled beta cells increased 6.8 times in SRD rats (P<0.03). The number of apoptotic cells in the endocrine pancreas decreased significantly (three times) in the SRD animals (P=0.03). The cytokeratin-positive area did not show significant differences between CD and SRD rats. The increase of beta-cell mass induced by SRD was accomplished by an enhanced replication of beta cells together with a decrease in the rate of beta-cell apoptosis, without any evident participation of islet neogenesis. This pancreatic reaction was unable to maintain serum glucose levels of these rats at the level measured in CD animals.

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