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Diabetologia. 2008 Jul;51(7):1213-25. doi: 10.1007/s00125-008-0999-7. Epub 2008 May 8.

Induction of nuclear factor-kappaB and its downstream genes by TNF-alpha and IL-1beta has a pro-apoptotic role in pancreatic beta cells.

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Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Route de Lennik, 808-CP-618, 1070, Brussels, Belgium,



IL-1beta and TNF-alpha contribute to pancreatic beta cell death in type 1 diabetes. Both cytokines activate the transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), but recent observations suggest that NF-kappaB blockade prevents IL-1beta + IFN-gamma- but not TNF-alpha + IFN-gamma-induced beta cell apoptosis. The aim of the present study was to compare the effects of IL-1beta and TNF-alpha on cell death and the pattern of NF-kappaB activation and global gene expression in beta cells.


Cell viability was measured after exposure to IL-1beta or to TNF-alpha alone or in combination with IFN-gamma, and blockade of NF-kappaB activation or protein synthesis. INS-1E cells exposed to IL-1beta or TNF-alpha in time course experiments were used for IkappaB kinase (IKK) activation assay, detection of p65 NF-kappaB by immunocytochemistry, real-time RT-PCR and microarray analysis.


Blocking NF-kappaB activation protected beta cells against IL-1beta + IFNgamma- or TNFalpha + IFNgamma-induced apoptosis. Blocking de novo protein synthesis did not increase TNF-alpha- or IL-1beta-induced beta cell death, in line with the observations that cytokines induced the expression of the anti-apoptotic genes A20, Iap-2 and Xiap to a similar extent. Microarray analysis of INS-1E cells treated with IL-1beta or TNF-alpha showed similar patterns of gene expression. IL-1beta, however, induced a higher rate of expression of NF-kappaB target genes putatively involved in beta cell dysfunction and death and a stronger activation of the IKK complex, leading to an earlier translocation of NF-kappaB to the nucleus.


NF-kappaB activation in beta cells has a pro-apoptotic role following exposure not only to IL-1beta but also to TNF-alpha. The more marked beta cell death induced by IL-1beta is explained at least in part by higher intensity NF-kappaB activation, leading to increased transcription of key target genes.

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