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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Apr 29;94(9):4360-5.

Regulation of insulin preRNA splicing by glucose.

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  • 1Hormone Research Institute and Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Glucose tightly regulates the synthesis and secretion of insulin by beta cells in the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. To investigate whether glucose regulates insulin synthesis at the level of insulin RNA splicing, we developed a method to detect and quantify a small amount of RNA by using the branched DNA (bDNA) signal-amplification technique. This assay is both sensitive and highly specific: mouse insulin II mRNA can be detected from a single beta cell (betaTC3 cells or mouse islets), whereas 1 million non-insulin-producing alpha cells (alphaTC1.6 cells) give no signal. By using intron and exon sequences, oligonucleotide probes were designed to distinguish the various unspliced and partially spliced insulin preRNAs from mature insulin mRNA. Insulin RNA splicing rates were estimated from the rate of disappearance of insulin preRNA signal from beta cells treated with actinomycin D to block transcription. We found that the two introns in mouse insulin II are not spliced with the same efficiency. Intron 2 is spliced out more efficiently than intron 1. As a result, some mRNA retaining intron 1 enters the cytoplasm, making up approximately 2-10% of insulin mRNA in the cell. This partially spliced cytoplasmic mRNA is quite stable, with a half-life similar to the completely spliced form. When islets grown in high glucose are shifted to low glucose medium, the level of insulin preRNA and the rate of splicing fall significantly. We conclude that glucose stimulates insulin gene transcription and insulin preRNA splicing. Previous estimates of insulin transcription rates based on insulin preRNA levels that did not consider the rate of splicing may have underestimated the effect of glucose on insulin gene transcription.

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