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PLoS One. 2009;4(2):e4394. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004394. Epub 2009 Feb 6.

Deletion of the mitochondrial flavoprotein apoptosis inducing factor (AIF) induces beta-cell apoptosis and impairs beta-cell mass.

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  • 1Centre for Biomolecular Interactions, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Apoptosis is a hallmark of beta-cell death in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Understanding how apoptosis contributes to beta-cell turnover may lead to strategies to prevent progression of diabetes. A key mediator of apoptosis, mitochondrial function, and cell survival is apoptosis inducing factor (AIF). In the present study, we investigated the role of AIF on beta-cell mass and survival using the Harlequin (Hq) mutant mice, which are hypomorphic for AIF.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Immunohistochemical evaluation of pancreata from Hq mutant mice displayed much smaller islets compared to wild-type mice (WT). Analysis of beta-cell mass in these mice revealed a greater than 4-fold reduction in beta-cell mass together with an 8-fold increase in beta-cell apoptosis. Analysis of cell cycle dynamics, using BrdU pulse as a marker for cells in S-phase, did not detect significant differences in the frequency of beta-cells in S-phase. In contrast, double staining for phosphorylated Histone H3 and insulin showed a 3-fold increase in beta-cells in the G2 phase in Hq mutant mice, but no differences in M-phase compared to WT mice. This suggests that the beta-cells from Hq mutant mice are arrested in the G2 phase and are unlikely to complete the cell cycle. beta-cells from Hq mutant mice display increased sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide-induced apoptosis, which was confirmed in human islets in which AIF was depleted by siRNA. AIF deficiency had no effect on glucose stimulated insulin secretion, but the impaired effect of hydrogen peroxide on beta-cell function was potentiated.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

Our results indicate that AIF is essential for maintaining beta-cell mass and for oxidative stress response. A decrease in the oxidative phosphorylation capacity may counteract the development of diabetes, despite its deleterious effects on beta-cell survival.

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