In Vivo Misfolding of Proinsulin Below the Threshold of Frank Diabetes

Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology, and Diabetes, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Diabetes (Impact Factor: 8.1). 06/2011; 60(8):2092-101. DOI: 10.2337/db10-1671
Source: PubMed


Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress has been described in pancreatic β-cells after onset of diabetes-a situation in which failing β-cells have exhausted available compensatory mechanisms. Herein we have compared two mouse models expressing equally small amounts of transgenic proinsulin in pancreatic β-cells.
In hProCpepGFP mice, human proinsulin (tagged with green fluorescent protein [GFP] within the connecting [C]-peptide) is folded in the ER, exported, converted to human insulin, and secreted. In hProC(A7)Y-CpepGFP mice, misfolding of transgenic mutant proinsulin causes its retention in the ER. Analysis of neonatal pancreas in both transgenic animals shows each β-cell stained positively for endogenous insulin and transgenic protein.
At this transgene expression level, most male hProC(A7)Y-CpepGFP mice do not develop frank diabetes, yet the misfolded proinsulin perturbs insulin production from endogenous proinsulin and activates ER stress response. In nondiabetic adult hProC(A7)Y-CpepGFP males, all β-cells continue to abundantly express transgene mRNA. Remarkably, however, a subset of β-cells in each islet becomes largely devoid of endogenous insulin, with some of these cells accumulating large quantities of misfolded mutant proinsulin, whereas another subset of β-cells has much less accumulated misfolded mutant proinsulin, with some of these cells containing abundant endogenous insulin.
The results indicate a source of pancreatic compensation before the development of diabetes caused by proinsulin misfolding with ER stress, i.e., the existence of an important subset of β-cells with relatively limited accumulation of misfolded proinsulin protein and maintenance of endogenous insulin production. Generation and maintenance of such a subset of β-cells may have implications in the avoidance of type 2 diabetes.

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    • "However, upregulation of UPR and ERAD seems to have a protective effect [34]. In vivo expression of the same proinsulin mutant driven by the weak Ins1 promoter induced both ER stress and pancreatic compensation [35]. Altogether these data demonstrate a clear link between misfolding of proinsulin and ER stress induction. "
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    ABSTRACT: Pancreatic β cell failure leads to diabetes development. During disease progression, β cells adapt their secretory capacity to compensate the elevated glycaemia and the peripheral insulin resistance. This compensatory mechanism involves a fine-tuned regulation to modulate the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) capacity and quality control to prevent unfolded proinsulin accumulation, a major protein synthetized within the β cell. These signalling pathways are collectively termed unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR machinery is required to preserve ER homeostasis and β cell integrity. Moreover, UPR actors play a key role by regulating ER folding capacity, increasing the degradation of misfolded proteins, and limiting the mRNA translation rate. Recent genetic and biochemical studies on mouse models and human UPR sensor mutations demonstrate a clear requirement of the UPR machinery to prevent β cell failure and increase β cell mass and adaptation throughout the progression of diabetes. In this review we will highlight the specific role of UPR actors in β cell compensation and failure during diabetes.
    Journal of Diabetes Research 04/2014; 2014:795171. DOI:10.1155/2014/795171 · 2.16 Impact Factor
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    • "Interestingly, subpopulations of cells have been reported for the Akita mouse, with some cells showing less ER‐accumulation of proinsulin than others1. It has been suggested that these less‐affected β‐cells represent younger cells that have yet to accumulate significant amounts of misfolded mutant proinsulin in the ER1. "
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    ABSTRACT: Aims/Introduction The human insulin gene/preproinsulin protein mutation C43G disrupts disulfide bond formation and causes diabetes in humans. Previous in vitro studies showed that these mutant proteins are retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), are not secreted and are associated with decreased secretion of wild‐type insulin. The current study extends this work to an in vivo zebrafish model. We hypothesized that C43G‐green fluorescent protein (GFP) would be retained in the ER, disrupt β‐cell function and lead to impaired glucose homeostasis. Materials and Methods Islets from adult transgenic zebrafish expressing GFP‐tagged human proinsulin mutant C43G (C43G‐GFP) or wild‐type human proinsulin (Cpep‐GFP) were analyzed histologically across a range of ages. Blood glucose concentration was determined under fasting conditions and in response to glucose injection. Insulin secretion was assessed by measuring circulating GFP and endogenous C‐peptide levels after glucose injection. Results The majority of β‐cells expressing C43G proinsulin showed excessive accumulation of C43G‐GFP in the ER. Western blotting showed that C43G‐GFP was present only as proinsulin, indicating defective processing. GFP was poorly secreted in C43G mutants compared with controls. Despite these defects, blood glucose homeostasis was normal. Mutant fish maintained β‐cell mass well into maturity and secreted endogenous C‐peptide. Conclusions In this model, the C43G proinsulin mutation does not impair glucose homeostasis or cause significant loss of β‐cell mass. This model might be useful for identifying potential therapeutic targets for proper trafficking of intracellular insulin or for maintenance of β‐cell mass in early‐stage diabetic patients.
    03/2013; 4(2):157-67. DOI:10.1111/jdi.12015
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    • "The pathophysiology of β-cell failure in Akita is complex and involves trapping of nonmutant proinsulin in the ER, leading to impaired β-cell function, stress, and apoptosis (10–12). Notably, a subset of Akita β-cells can compensate for proinsulin misfolding, thereby avoiding diabetes (13). Therefore, unraveling the adaptive mechanisms that operate in stressed β-cells may have important implications for diabetes treatment. "
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    ABSTRACT: Accumulation of misfolded proinsulin in the β-cell leads to dysfunction induced by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, with diabetes as a consequence. Autophagy helps cellular adaptation to stress via clearance of misfolded proteins and damaged organelles. We studied the effects of proinsulin misfolding on autophagy and the impact of stimulating autophagy on diabetes progression in Akita mice, which carry a mutation in proinsulin, leading to its severe misfolding. Treatment of female diabetic Akita mice with rapamycin improved diabetes, increased pancreatic insulin content, and prevented β-cell apoptosis. In vitro, autophagic flux was increased in Akita β-cells. Treatment with rapamycin further stimulated autophagy, evidenced by increased autophagosome formation and enhancement of autophagosome-lysosome fusion. This was associated with attenuation of cellular stress and apoptosis. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase inhibitor Torin1 mimicked the rapamycin effects on autophagy and stress, indicating that the beneficial effects of rapamycin are indeed mediated via inhibition of mTOR. Finally, inhibition of autophagy exacerbated stress and abolished the anti-ER stress effects of rapamycin. In conclusion, rapamycin reduces ER stress induced by accumulation of misfolded proinsulin, thereby improving diabetes and preventing β-cell apoptosis. The beneficial effects of rapamycin in this context strictly depend on autophagy; therefore, stimulating autophagy may become a therapeutic approach for diabetes.
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