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Biochem J. 2015 Mar 1;466(2):203-18. doi: 10.1042/BJ20141384.

Pancreatic β-cell identity, glucose sensing and the control of insulin secretion.

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*Section of Cell Biology, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Imperial Centre for Translational and Experimental Medicine, Imperial College London, Du Cane Road, London W12 0NN, U.K.


Insulin release from pancreatic β-cells is required to maintain normal glucose homoeostasis in man and many other animals. Defective insulin secretion underlies all forms of diabetes mellitus, a disease currently reaching epidemic proportions worldwide. Although the destruction of β-cells is responsible for Type 1 diabetes (T1D), both lowered β-cell mass and loss of secretory function are implicated in Type 2 diabetes (T2D). Emerging results suggest that a functional deficiency, involving de-differentiation of the mature β-cell towards a more progenitor-like state, may be an important driver for impaired secretion in T2D. Conversely, at least in rodents, reprogramming of islet non-β to β-cells appears to occur spontaneously in models of T1D, and may occur in man. In the present paper, we summarize the biochemical properties which define the 'identity' of the mature β-cell as a glucose sensor par excellence. In particular, we discuss the importance of suppressing a group of 11 'disallowed' housekeeping genes, including Ldha and the monocarboxylate transporter Mct1 (Slc16a1), for normal nutrient sensing. We then survey the changes in the expression and/or activity of β-cell-enriched transcription factors, including FOXO1, PDX1, NKX6.1, MAFA and RFX6, as well as non-coding RNAs, which may contribute to β-cell de-differentiation and functional impairment in T2D. The relevance of these observations for the development of new approaches to treat T1D and T2D is considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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