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J Biol Chem. 2007 Feb 9;282(6):3989-97. Epub 2006 Dec 8.

Selective inhibition of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 alpha dephosphorylation potentiates fatty acid-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress and causes pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction and apoptosis.

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Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1070 Brussels, Belgium.


Free fatty acids cause pancreatic beta-cell apoptosis and may contribute to beta-cell loss in type 2 diabetes via the induction of endoplasmic reticulum stress. Reductions in eukaryotic translation initiation factor (eIF) 2alpha phosphorylation trigger beta-cell failure and diabetes. Salubrinal selectively inhibits eIF2alpha dephosphorylation, protects other cells against endoplasmic reticulum stress-mediated apoptosis, and has been proposed as a beta-cell protector. Unexpectedly, salubrinal induced apoptosis in primary beta-cells, and it potentiated the deleterious effects of oleate and palmitate. Salubrinal induced a marked eIF2alpha phosphorylation and potentiated the inhibitory effects of free fatty acids on protein synthesis and insulin release. The synergistic activation of the PERK-eIF2alpha branch of the endoplasmic reticulum stress response, but not of the IRE1 and activating transcription factor-6 pathways, led to a marked induction of activating transcription factor-4 and the pro-apoptotic transcription factor CHOP. Our findings demonstrate that excessive eIF2alpha phosphorylation is poorly tolerated by beta-cells and exacerbates free fatty acid-induced apoptosis. This modifies the present paradigm regarding the beneficial role of eIF2alpha phosphorylation in beta-cells and must be taken into consideration when designing therapies to protect beta-cells in type 2 diabetes.

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