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Islets. 2010 Nov-Dec;2(6):345-52. doi: 10.4161/isl.2.6.13376. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

Aging induces a distinct gene expression program in mouse islets.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA USA.


The role of aging in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes remains poorly understood. In the past adult β-cells were assumed to undergo frequent turnover. However, we find that β-cell turnover declines to very low levels in middle-aged mice. We therefore hypothesized that aged islets could exhibit a distinct gene expression program. We compared gene expression in islets from young mice to islets from aged mice under basal conditions. Aging was associated with differential expression of many genes in islets, including mRNAs encoding for chromatin remodeling components, RNA binding proteins, and pancreatic endocrine transcription factors. We previously observed that cell cycle entry of β-cells is severely restricted by middle age, with minimal of β-cell proliferation in response to regenerative stimuli such as 50% partial pancreatectomy. To characterize the effect of age in adaptive β-cell proliferation, we measured gene expression in islets from young mice after pancreatectomy. As expected, partial pancreatectomy induced differential expression of many genes, including those encoding Reg (regenerating) proteins. Surprisingly, partial pancreatectomy also induced expression of Reg genes in islets from aged mice, which have greatly reduced capacity for adaptive β-cell proliferation. However, there was little overlap (besides the Reg genes) in between the partial pancreatectomy induced islet genes in young mice versus old mice. Thus, partial pancreatectomy does not induce the same gene expression program in young mice vs old mice. Taken together, our results reveal that aged islets exhibit a unique gene expression signature that could contribute to the limited regenerative capacity of mature β-cells.

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