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J Mol Med (Berl). 2012 May;90(5):575-85. doi: 10.1007/s00109-011-0834-3. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Rapamycin induces glucose intolerance in mice by reducing islet mass, insulin content, and insulin sensitivity.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, 1550, 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.


Rapamycin, a specific inhibitor for mTOR complex 1, is an FDA-approved immunosuppressant for organ transplant. Recent developments have raised the prospect of using rapamycin to treat cancer or diabetes and to delay aging. It is therefore important to assess how rapamycin treatment affects glucose homeostasis. Here, we show that the same rapamycin treatment reported to extend mouse life span significantly impaired glucose homeostasis of aged mice. Moreover, rapamycin treatment of lean C57B/L6 mice reduced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in vivo and ex vivo as well as the insulin content and beta cell mass of pancreatic islets. Confounding the diminished capacity for insulin release, rapamycin decreased insulin sensitivity. The multitude of rapamycin effects thus all lead to glucose intolerance. As our findings reveal that chronic rapamycin treatment could be diabetogenic, monitoring glucose homeostasis is crucial when using rapamycin as a therapeutic as well as experimental reagent.

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