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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23894. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023894. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Betacellulin-induced beta cell proliferation and regeneration is mediated by activation of ErbB-1 and ErbB-2 receptors.

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  • 1Lee Gil Ya Cancer and Diabetes Institute, Gachon University of Medicine and Science, Incheon, Korea.



Betacellulin (BTC), a member of the epidermal growth factor family, is known to play an important role in regulating growth and differentiation of pancreatic beta cells. Growth-promoting actions of BTC are mediated by epidermal growth factor receptors (ErbBs), namely ErbB-1, ErbB-2, ErbB-3 and ErbB-4; however, the exact mechanism for beta cell proliferation has not been elucidated. Therefore, we investigated which ErbBs are involved and some molecular mechanisms by which BTC regulates beta cell proliferation.


The expression of ErbB-1, ErbB-2, ErbB-3, and ErbB-4 mRNA was detected by RT-PCR in both a beta cell line (MIN-6 cells) and C57BL/6 mouse islets. Immunoprecipitation and western blotting analysis showed that BTC treatment of MIN-6 cells induced phosphorylation of only ErbB-1 and ErbB-2 among the four EGF receptors. BTC treatment resulted in DNA synthetic activity, cell cycle progression, and bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)-positive staining. The proliferative effect was blocked by treatment with AG1478 or AG825, specific tyrosine kinase inhibitors of ErbB-1 and ErbB-2, respectively. BTC treatment increased mRNA and protein levels of insulin receptor substrate-2 (IRS-2), and this was blocked by the ErbB-1 and ErbB-2 inhibitors. Inhibition of IRS-2 by siRNA blocked cell cycle progression induced by BTC treatment. Streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice injected with a recombinant adenovirus expressing BTC and treated with AG1478 or AG825 showed reduced islet size, reduced numbers of BrdU-positive cells in the islets, and did not attain BTC-mediated remission of diabetes.


These results suggest that BTC exerts proliferative activity on beta cells through the activation of ErbB-1 and ErbB-2 receptors, which may increase IRS-2 expression, contributing to the regeneration of beta cells.

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