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J Biol Chem. 2003 Jan 31;278(5):2997-3005. Epub 2002 Nov 15.

Critical reduction in beta-cell mass results in two distinct outcomes over time. Adaptation with impaired glucose tolerance or decompensated diabetes.

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  • 1Section of Islet Transplantation and Cell Biology, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


We have proposed that hyperglycemia-induced dedifferentiation of beta-cells is a critical factor for the loss of insulin secretory function in diabetes. Here we examined the effects of the duration of hyperglycemia on gene expression in islets of partially pancreatectomized (Px) rats. Islets were isolated, and mRNA was extracted from rats 4 and 14 weeks after Px or sham Px surgery. Px rats developed different degrees of hyperglycemia; low hyperglycemia was assigned to Px rats with fed blood glucose levels less than 150 mg/dl, and high hyperglycemia was assigned above 150 mg/dl. beta-Cell hypertrophy was present at both 4 and 14 weeks. At the same time points, high hyperglycemia rats showed a global alteration in gene expression with decreased mRNA for insulin, IAPP, islet-associated transcription factors (pancreatic and duodenal homeobox-1, BETA2/NeuroD, Nkx6.1, and hepatocyte nuclear factor 1 alpha), beta-cell metabolic enzymes (glucose transporter 2, glucokinase, mitochondrial glycerol phosphate dehydrogenase, and pyruvate carboxylase), and ion channels/pumps (Kir6.2, VDCC beta, and sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase 3). Conversely, genes normally suppressed in beta-cells, such as lactate dehydrogenase-A, hexokinase I, glucose-6-phosphatase, stress genes (heme oxygenase-1, A20, and Fas), and the transcription factor c-Myc, were markedly increased. In contrast, gene expression in low hyperglycemia rats was only minimally changed at 4 weeks but significantly changed at 14 weeks, indicating that even low levels of hyperglycemia induce beta-cell dedifferentiation over time. In addition, whereas 2 weeks of correction of hyperglycemia completely reverses the changes in gene expression of Px rats at 4 weeks, the changes at 14 weeks were only partially reversed, indicating that the phenotype becomes resistant to reversal in the long term. In conclusion, chronic hyperglycemia induces a progressive loss of beta-cell phenotype with decreased expression of beta-cell-associated genes and increased expression of normally suppressed genes, these changes being present with even minimal levels of hyperglycemia. Thus, both the severity and duration of hyperglycemia appear to contribute to the deterioration of the beta-cell phenotype found in diabetes.

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