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Dev Growth Differ. 2012 Jun;54(5):557-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-169X.2012.01356.x. Epub 2012 May 24.

α-lipoic acid inhibits high glucose-induced apoptosis in HIT-T15 cells.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University, 38 Xueyuan Road, Beijing, 100191, China.


High blood glucose plays an important role in the pathogenesis of diabetes. α-lipoic acid (LA) has been used to prevent and treat diabetes, and is thought to act by increasing insulin sensitivity in many tissues. However, whether LA also has a cytoprotective effect on pancreatic islet beta cells remains unclear. In this study, we assessed whether LA could inhibit apoptosis in beta cells exposed to high glucose concentrations. HIT-T15 pancreatic beta cells were treated with 30 mmol/L glucose in the presence or absence of 0.5 mmol/L LA for 8 days. LA significantly reduced the numbers of apoptotic HIT-T15 cells and inhibited the cell overgrowth normally induced by high glucose treatment. Additionally, LA inhibited insulin expression and secretion in HIT-T15 cells induced by high glucose. Further study demonstrated that LA upregulated Pdx1 and Bcl2 gene expression, reduced Bax gene expression, and promoted phosphorylation of Akt in HIT-T15 cells treated with high glucose. Intriguingly, knockdown of Pdx1 expression partially offset the anti-apoptotic effect of LA. However, inhibition of Akt by PI3K/AKT antagonist LY294002 only slightly reversed the anti-apoptosis effect of LA and mildly decreased the gene expression level of Pdx1 (P > 0.05). Moreover, LA only slightly attenuated reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and augmented mitochondrial membrane potential. Therefore, our data suggest that α-lipoic acid can effectively attenuate high glucose-induced HIT-T15 cell apoptosis probably by increasing Pdx1 expression. These findings provide a new interpretation on the role of LA in the treatment of diabetes.

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