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Diabetologia. 2014 Mar;57(3):491-501. doi: 10.1007/s00125-013-3116-5. Epub 2014 Jan 16.

Association of proinflammatory cytokines and islet resident leucocytes with islet dysfunction in type 2 diabetes.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, 700 West Olney Road, Norfolk, VA, 23507-1696, USA.



Chronic inflammation in type 2 diabetes is proposed to affect islets as well as insulin target organs. However, the nature of islet inflammation and its effects on islet function in type 2 diabetes remain unclear. Moreover, the immune cell profiles of human islets in healthy and type 2 diabetic conditions are undefined. We aimed to investigate the correlation between proinflammatory cytokine expression, islet leucocyte composition and insulin secretion in type 2 diabetic human islets.


Human islets from organ donors with or without type 2 diabetes were studied. First and second phases of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion were determined by perifusion. The expression of inflammatory markers was obtained by quantitative PCR. Immune cells within human islets were analysed by FACS.


Type 2 diabetic islets, especially those without first-phase insulin secretion, displayed higher CCL2 and TNFa expression than healthy islets. CD45(+) leucocytes were elevated in type 2 diabetic islets, to a greater extent in moderately functional type 2 diabetic islets compared with poorly functional ones, and corresponded with elevated ALOX12 but not with CCL2 or TNFa expression. T and B lymphocytes and CD11c(+) cells were detectable within both non-diabetic and type 2 diabetic islet leucocytes. Importantly, the proportion of B cells was significantly elevated within type 2 diabetic islets.


Elevated total islet leucocyte content and proinflammatory mediators correlated with islet dysfunction, suggesting that heterogeneous insulitis occurs during the development of islet dysfunction in type 2 diabetes. In addition, the altered B cell content highlights a potential role for the adaptive immune response in islet dysfunction.

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