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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e36200. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036200. Epub 2012 Apr 27.

Lipopolysaccharides impair insulin gene expression in isolated islets of Langerhans via Toll-Like Receptor-4 and NF-κB signalling.

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Montreal Diabetes Research Center, Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CRCHUM), Montréal, Quebec, Canada.



Type 2 diabetes is characterized by pancreatic β-cell dysfunction and is associated with low-grade inflammation. Recent observations suggest that the signalling cascade activated by lipopolysaccharides (LPS) binding to Toll-Like Receptor 4 (TLR4) exerts deleterious effects on pancreatic β-cell function; however, the molecular mechanisms of these effects are incompletely understood. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that LPS alters insulin gene expression via TLR4 and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) in islets.


A 24-h exposure of isolated human, rat and mouse islets of Langerhans to LPS dose-dependently reduced insulin gene expression. This was associated in mouse and rat islets with decreased mRNA expression of pancreas-duodenum homebox-1 (PDX-1) and mammalian homologue of avian MafA/l-Maf (MafA). Accordingly, LPS exposure also decreased glucose-induced insulin secretion. LPS repression of insulin, PDX-1 and MafA expression, as well as its inhibition of insulin secretion, were not observed in islets from TLR4-deficient mice. LPS inhibition of β-cell gene expression in rat islets was prevented by inhibition of the NF-κB pathway, but not the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK) pathway.


Our findings demonstrate that LPS inhibit β-cell gene expression in a TLR4-dependent manner and via NF-κB signaling in pancreatic islets, suggesting a novel mechanism by which the gut microbiota might affect pancreatic β-cell function.

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