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Diabetologia. 2015 Oct;58(10):2307-16. doi: 10.1007/s00125-015-3669-6. Epub 2015 Jun 23.

Cytokines induce endoplasmic reticulum stress in human, rat and mouse beta cells via different mechanisms.

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ULB-Center for Diabetes Research, Universitè Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Route de Lennik, 808-CP618, 1070, Brussels, Belgium.
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Islet Laboratory, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI, 53706, USA.
Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases, Sabri Ülker Center, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
ULB-Center for Diabetes Research, Universitè Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Route de Lennik, 808-CP618, 1070, Brussels, Belgium.



Proinflammatory cytokines contribute to beta cell damage in type 1 diabetes in part through activation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. In rat beta cells, cytokine-induced ER stress involves NO production and consequent inhibition of the ER Ca(2+) transporting ATPase sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) pump 2 (SERCA2B). However, the mechanisms by which cytokines induce ER stress and apoptosis in mouse and human pancreatic beta cells remain unclear. The purpose of this study is to elucidate the role of ER stress on cytokine-induced beta cell apoptosis in these three species and thus solve ongoing controversies in the field.


Rat and mouse insulin-producing cells, human pancreatic islets and human EndoC-βH1 cells were exposed to the cytokines IL-1β, TNF-α and IFN-γ, with or without NO inhibition. A global comparison of cytokine-modulated gene expression in human, mouse and rat beta cells was also performed. The chemical chaperone tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) and suppression of C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) were used to assess the role of ER stress in cytokine-induced apoptosis of human beta cells.


NO plays a key role in cytokine-induced ER stress in rat islets, but not in mouse or human islets. Bioinformatics analysis indicated greater similarity between human and mouse than between human and rat global gene expression after cytokine exposure. The chemical chaperone TUDCA and suppression of CHOP or c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) protected human beta cells against cytokine-induced apoptosis.


These observations clarify previous results that were discrepant owing to the use of islets from different species, and confirm that cytokine-induced ER stress contributes to human beta cell death, at least in part via JNK activation.


Apoptosis; Cytokines; ER stress; Human islets; Type 1 diabetes; c-Jun N-terminal kinase

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