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Metabolism. 2012 Aug;61(8):1118-28. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2012.01.004. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

Atf6α-null mice are glucose intolerant due to pancreatic β-cell failure on a high-fat diet but partially resistant to diet-induced insulin resistance.

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Division of Molecular Metabolism and Diabetes, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan.


Activating transcription factor 6α (ATF6α) is essential for the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response. Since recent studies suggested that ER stress is involved in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes mellitus, we have analyzed Atf6α-null (Atf6α(-/-)) mice challenged with metabolic overload or genetic manipulations. Atf6α(-/-) mice were fed a high-fat diet to create diet-induced obese (DO) mice, and were subjected to examination of glucose homeostasis with biochemical and morphological analysis of the pancreatic β-cell and liver tissues. Atf6α-null mice were also crossed with genetic models of diabetes caused either by insulin resistance (Agouti obese mice) or by impaired insulin secretion (Ins2(WT/C96Y) mice). Atf6α(-/-) DO mice were less glucose tolerant with blunted insulin secretion compared to littermates on a high-fat diet. Pancreatic insulin content was lower in Atf6α(-/-) DO mice with the swollen β-cell ER, a typical feature of cells with ER stress. In the liver of Atf6α(-/-) DO mice, XBP-1 splicing was increased, suggesting that higher ER stress was present. ATF6-deficient mice showed increased mRNA expressions of glucose-6-phosphatase and SREBP1c associated with a tendency for a higher degree of steatosis in the liver. However, Atf6α(-/-) DO mice exhibited higher insulin sensitivity with lower serum triglyceride levels. Similar phenotypes were observed in ATF6α-deficient Agouti mice. In addition, ATF6α-deficiency accelerated reduction in pancreatic insulin content in Ins2(WT/C96Y) mice. These data suggested that ATF6α contributes to both prevention and promotion of diabetes; it protects β-cells from ER stress and suppresses hepatosteatosis, but plays a role in the development of hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance.

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