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Diabetes. 2001 Jan;50(1):77-82.

Cell-permeable peptide inhibitors of JNK: novel blockers of beta-cell death.

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Division of Medical Genetics, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois-University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Stress conditions and proinflammatory cytokines activate the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK), a member of the stress-activated group of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). We recently demonstrated that inhibition of JNK signaling with the use of the islet-brain (IB) 1 and 2 proteins prevented interleukin (IL)-1beta-induced pancreatic beta-cell death. Bioactive cell-permeable peptide inhibitors of JNK were engineered by linking the minimal 20-amino acid inhibitory domains of the IB proteins to the 10-amino acid HIV-TAT sequence that rapidly translocates inside cells. Kinase assays indicate that the inhibitors block activation of the transcription factor c-Jun by JNK. Addition of the peptides to the insulin-secreting betaTC-3 cell line results in a marked inhibition of IL-1beta-induced c-jun and c-fos expression. The peptides protect betaTC-3 cells against apoptosis induced by IL-1beta. All-D retro-inverso peptides penetrate cells as efficiently as the L-enantiomers, decrease c-Jun activation by JNK, and remain highly stable inside cells. These latter peptides confer full protection against IL-1beta-induced apoptosis for up to 2 weeks of continual treatment with IL-1beta. These data establish these bioactive cell-permeable peptides as potent pharmacological compounds that decrease intracellular JNK signaling and confer long-term protection to pancreatic beta-cells from IL-1beta-induced apoptosis.

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