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J Cell Sci. 2008 Jul 15;121(Pt 14):2308-18. doi: 10.1242/jcs.026062. Epub 2008 Jun 17.

Initiation and execution of lipotoxic ER stress in pancreatic beta-cells.

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Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.


Free fatty acids (FFA) cause apoptosis of pancreatic beta-cells and might contribute to beta-cell loss in type 2 diabetes via the induction of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. We studied here the molecular mechanisms implicated in FFA-induced ER stress initiation and apoptosis in INS-1E cells, FACS-purified primary beta-cells and human islets exposed to oleate and/or palmitate. Treatment with saturated and/or unsaturated FFA led to differential ER stress signaling. Palmitate induced more apoptosis and markedly activated the IRE1, PERK and ATF6 pathways, owing to a sustained depletion of ER Ca(2+) stores, whereas the unsaturated FFA oleate led to milder PERK and IRE1 activation and comparable ATF6 signaling. Non-metabolizable methyl-FFA analogs induced neither ER stress nor beta-cell apoptosis. The FFA-induced ER stress response was not modified by high glucose concentrations, suggesting that ER stress in primary beta-cells is primarily lipotoxic, and not glucolipotoxic. Palmitate, but not oleate, activated JNK. JNK inhibitors reduced palmitate-mediated AP-1 activation and apoptosis. Blocking the transcription factor CHOP delayed palmitate-induced beta-cell apoptosis. In conclusion, saturated FFA induce ER stress via ER Ca(2+) depletion. The IRE1 and resulting JNK activation contribute to beta-cell apoptosis. PERK activation by palmitate also contributes to beta-cell apoptosis via CHOP.

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