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Diabetes. 2001 Aug;50(8):1706-13.

Proteins linked to a protein transduction domain efficiently transduce pancreatic islets.

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  • 1Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida 33136, USA.


The resounding success of a new immunosuppressive regimen known as the Edmonton protocol demonstrates that islet cell transplantation is becoming a therapeutic reality for diabetes. However, under the Edmonton protocol, a single donor does not provide enough islets to attain the insulin independence of a transplant recipient. This limitation is mainly caused by islet apoptosis triggered during isolation. In this study, we describe a highly efficient system of transiently transferring anti-apoptotic proteins into pancreatic islets, thus opening an exciting new therapeutic opportunity to improve the viability of transplantable islets. We fused beta-galactosidase to the 11-amino acid residues that constitute the protein transduction domain (PTD) of the HIV/TAT protein and transduced pancreatic islets ex vivo with this fusion protein in a dose-dependent manner with >80% efficiency. We observed that transduction of the anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-X(L) and PEA-15 fused to TAT/PTD prevented apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor-alpha in a pancreatic beta-cell line, indicating that TAT/PTD anti-apoptotic proteins retained their biological activity. Finally, we demonstrated that TAT-fusion proteins did not affect the insulin secretion capability of islets, as determined by glucose static incubation and by reversion of hyperglycemia in diabetic immunodeficient mice.

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