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Diabetologia. 2008 Jan;51(1):147-54. Epub 2007 Nov 10.

Regulation of insulin secretion, glucokinase gene transcription and beta cell proliferation by adipocyte-derived Wnt signalling molecules.

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Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Rheumatology, University Hospital Düsseldorf, Moorenstr. 5, 40225, Dusseldorf, Germany.



Adipocytes secrete signalling molecules that elicit responses from target cells, including pancreatic beta cells. Wnt signalling molecules have recently been identified as novel adipocyte-derived factors. They also regulate insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells and the cell cycle. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of adipocyte-derived Wnt signalling molecules on insulin secretion and beta cell proliferation.


Human adipocytes were isolated to generate fat cell-conditioned medium (FCCM). Ins-1 cells were stimulated with FCCM and transiently transfected with reporter genes. Proliferation assays using [3H]thymidine incorporation were carried out in Ins-1 cells and primary islet cells. Insulin secretion from primary islets was assessed by radioimmunoassay. Gene expression in primary islets was assessed by Taqman PCR.


Treatment with human FCCM increased the transcription of a T cell-specific transcription factor reporter gene (TOPFLASH) in Ins-1 cells (241%, p < 0.05). FCCM induced the proliferation of Ins-1 cells (1.8 fold, p < 0.05) and primary mouse islet cells (1.6 fold, p < 0.05). Antagonizing Wnt signalling with secreted Frizzled-related protein 1 (FRP-1) inhibited the proliferative effect induced by Wnt3a and FCCM on Ins-1 cells by 49 and 41%, respectively. In addition, FCCM led to a twofold (p < 0.05) induction of cyclin D1 promoter activity in Ins-1 cells. Furthermore, FCCM stimulated insulin secretion (204% of controls, p > 0.05) in primary mouse islets, and this stimulation was inhibited by sFRP-1. At a molecular level, canonical Wnt signalling induced glucokinase gene transcription in a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma-dependent fashion, thereby defining the glucokinase gene as a novel Wnt target gene.


Taken together, these data show that adipocyte-derived Wnt signalling molecules induce beta cell proliferation and insulin secretion in vitro, suggesting a novel mechanism linking obesity to hyperinsulinaemia.

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