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Diabetes Metab. 1996 Feb;22(1):7-14.

Insulin-secreting cell lines: classification, characteristics and potential applications.

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  • 1INSERM U341, Service de DiabĂ©tologie, HĂ´tel-Dieu, Paris, France.


The use of primary beta-cells in biochemical and molecular research is limited by the availability of pancreatic endocrine tissue. Numerous investigators have attempted to establish an insulin-secreting cell line that retains normal regulation of insulin secretion. Different approaches have been used, including induction of pancreatic tumors by irradiation or viral infection, immortalization of beta-cells in vitro, and development of transgenic mice with targeted expression of a recombinant oncogene in the beta-cell. Few of these attempts have proven successful, because cell differentiation and proliferation capacities are mutually exclusive. The most widely used insulin-secreting cell lines are RIN, HIT, beta TC, MIN6 and INS-1 cells. These cells contain mainly insulin and small amounts of glucagon and somatostatin. RIN cells, except for the subclone RIN-38, are not glucose-responsive. HIT cells and beta TC cells secrete insulin in response to glucose, but their dose-response curve is markedly shifted to the left MIN6, INS-1 and a newly available subclone of beta TC cells (beta TC-6 F7) are reported to retain normal regulation of glucose-induced insulin secretion. Although the behaviour of none of these cell lines perfectly mimics primary beta-cell physiology, they are extremely valuable tools for the study of molecular events underlying beta-cell function and dysfunction. In addition, insulin-secreting cell lines represent a potential source of transplantable tissue to overcome the limited availability of primary islets for this procedure.

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