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Diabetes Obes Metab. 2016 Sep;18 Suppl 1:41-50. doi: 10.1111/dom.12714.

Role of long non-coding RNAs in the determination of β-cell identity.

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Department of Fundamental Neurosciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Department of Fundamental Neurosciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Pancreatic β-cells are highly specialized cells committed to secrete insulin in response to changes in the level of nutrients, hormones and neurotransmitters. Chronic exposure to elevated concentrations of glucose, fatty acids or inflammatory mediators can result in modifications in β-cell gene expression that alter their functional properties. This can lead to the release of insufficient amount of insulin to cover the organism's needs, and thus to the development of diabetes mellitus. Although most of the studies carried out in the last decades to elucidate the causes of β-cell dysfunction under disease conditions have focused on protein-coding genes, we now know that insulin-secreting cells also contain thousands of molecules of RNA that do not encode polypeptides but play key roles in the acquisition and maintenance of a highly differentiated state. In this review, we will highlight the involvement of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), a particular class of non-coding transcripts, in the differentiation of β-cells and in the regulation of their specialized tasks. We will also discuss the crosstalk between the activities of lncRNAs and microRNAs and present the emerging evidence of a potential contribution of particular lncRNAs to the development of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.


diabetes; insulin; long non-coding RNA; microRNA

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