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PLoS One. 2016 Jul 12;11(7):e0159199. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159199. eCollection 2016.

Measurement of the Absolute Magnitude and Time Courses of Mitochondrial Membrane Potential in Primary and Clonal Pancreatic Beta-Cells.

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Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Novato, California, United States of America.
Image Analyst Software, Novato, California, United States of America.
Touro University California College of Pharmacy, Vallejo, California, United States of America.


The aim of this study was to simplify, improve and validate quantitative measurement of the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔψM) in pancreatic β-cells. This built on our previously introduced calculation of the absolute magnitude of ΔψM in intact cells, using time-lapse imaging of the non-quench mode fluorescence of tetramethylrhodamine methyl ester and a bis-oxonol plasma membrane potential (ΔψP) indicator. ΔψM is a central mediator of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in pancreatic β-cells. ΔψM is at the crossroads of cellular energy production and demand, therefore precise assay of its magnitude is a valuable tool to study how these processes interplay in insulin secretion. Dispersed islet cell cultures allowed cell type-specific, single-cell observations of cell-to-cell heterogeneity of ΔψM and ΔψP. Glucose addition caused hyperpolarization of ΔψM and depolarization of ΔψP. The hyperpolarization was a monophasic step increase, even in cells where the ΔψP depolarization was biphasic. The biphasic response of ΔψP was associated with a larger hyperpolarization of ΔψM than the monophasic response. Analysis of the relationships between ΔψP and ΔψM revealed that primary dispersed β-cells responded to glucose heterogeneously, driven by variable activation of energy metabolism. Sensitivity analysis of the calibration was consistent with β-cells having substantial cell-to-cell variations in amounts of mitochondria, and this was predicted not to impair the accuracy of determinations of relative changes in ΔψM and ΔψP. Finally, we demonstrate a significant problem with using an alternative ΔψM probe, rhodamine 123. In glucose-stimulated and oligomycin-inhibited β-cells the principles of the rhodamine 123 assay were breached, resulting in misleading conclusions.

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