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Diabetes. 2014 Mar;63(3):923-33. doi: 10.2337/db13-0717. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

β-cell dysfunction due to increased ER stress in a stem cell model of Wolfram syndrome.

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  • 1The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute, New York, NY.


Wolfram syndrome is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in WFS1 and is characterized by insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, optic atrophy, and deafness. To investigate the cause of β-cell failure, we used induced pluripotent stem cells to create insulin-producing cells from individuals with Wolfram syndrome. WFS1-deficient β-cells showed increased levels of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress molecules and decreased insulin content. Upon exposure to experimental ER stress, Wolfram β-cells showed impaired insulin processing and failed to increase insulin secretion in response to glucose and other secretagogues. Importantly, 4-phenyl butyric acid, a chemical protein folding and trafficking chaperone, restored normal insulin synthesis and the ability to upregulate insulin secretion. These studies show that ER stress plays a central role in β-cell failure in Wolfram syndrome and indicate that chemical chaperones might have therapeutic relevance under conditions of ER stress in Wolfram syndrome and other forms of diabetes.

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