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Biophys J. 2012 Dec 5;103(11):2379-88. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.10.028.

Autofluorescence imaging of living pancreatic islets reveals fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21)-induced metabolism.

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Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) has therapeutic potential for metabolic syndrome due to positive effects on fatty acid metabolism in liver and white adipose tissue. FGF21 also improves pancreatic islet survival in excess palmitate; however, much less is known about FGF21-induced metabolism in this tissue. We first confirmed FGF21-dependent activity in islets by identifying expression of the cognate coreceptor Klothoβ, and by measuring a ligand-stimulated decrease in acetyl-CoA carboxylase expression. To further reveal the effect of FGF21 on metabolism, we employed a unique combination of two-photon and confocal autofluorescence imaging of the NAD(P)H and mitochondrial NADH responses while holding living islets stationary in a microfluidic device. These responses were further correlated to mitochondrial membrane potential and insulin secretion. Glucose-stimulated responses were relatively unchanged by FGF21. In contrast, responses to glucose in the presence of palmitate were significantly reduced compared to controls showing diminished NAD(P)H, mitochondrial NADH, mitochondrial membrane potential, and insulin secretion. Consistent with the glucose-stimulated responses being smaller due to continued fatty acid oxidation, mitochondrial membrane potential was increased in FGF21-treated islets by using the fatty acid transport inhibitor etomoxir. Citrate-stimulated NADPH responses were also significantly larger in FGF21-treated islets suggesting preference for citrate cycling rather than acetyl-CoA carboxylase-dependent fatty acid synthesis. Overall, these data show a reduction in palmitate-induced potentiation of glucose-stimulated metabolism and insulin secretion in FGF21-treated islets, and establish the use of autofluorescence imaging and microfluidic devices to investigate cell metabolism in a limited amount of living tissue.

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