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Islets. 2010 Jan-Feb;2(1):37-45. doi: 10.4161/isl.2.1.10196.

c-Myc directly induces both impaired insulin secretion and loss of β-cell mass, independently of hyperglycemia in vivo.

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  • 1Warwick Medical School, Clinical Sciences Research Institute, University of Warwick, Coventry UK.


c-Myc (Myc) is a mediator of glucotoxicity but could also independently compromise β-cell survival and function. We have shown that after Myc activation in adult β-cells in vivo, apoptosis is preceded by hyperglycemia, suggesting glucotoxicity might contribute to Myc-induced apoptosis. To address this question conditional Myc was activated in β-cells of adult pIns-c-MycER(TAM) mice in vivo in the presence or absence of various glucose-lowering treatments, including exogenous insulin and prior to transplantation with wild-type islets. Changes in blood glucose levels were subsequently correlated with changes in β-cell mass and markers of function/differentiation. Activation of c-Myc resulted in reduced insulin secretion, hyperglycemia and loss of β-cell differentiation, followed by reduction in mass. Glucose-lowering interventions did not prevent loss of β-cells. Therefore, Myc can cause diabetes by direct effects on β-cell apoptosis even in the absence of potentially confounding secondary hyperglycemia. Moreover, as loss of β-cell differentiation/function and hyperglycemia are not prevented by preventing β-cell apoptosis, we conclude that Myc might contribute to the pathogenesis of diabetes by directly coupling cell cycle entry and β-cell failure through two distinct pathways.

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