Gluco-toxicity is a term used to convey the detrimental effect of hyperglycemia on β-cell function through impaired insulin synthesis. Although it is known that the expression and activity of several key insulin transcription regulators is inhibited, other molecular mechanisms that mediate gluco-toxicity are poorly defined. Our objective was to explore the role of hepcidin in β-cell gluco-toxicity.
We first confirmed that high glucose levels inhibited hepcidin expression in the mouse insulinoma cell line, MIN6. The downregulation of hepcidin decreased Pdx-1 expression, which reduced insulin synthesis.
MIN6 cells were exposed to high glucose concentrations (33.3 mmol/L). Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) and serum hepcidin levels were measured by ELISA. The mRNA levels of insulin1, insulin2, Pdx-1 and hepcidin were measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Western blot analysis was used to detect the changes in PDX-1 expression. Transient overexpression with hepcidin was used to reverse the downregulation of Pdx-1 and insulin synthesis induced by gluco-toxicity.
Exposure of MIN6 cells to high glucose significantly decreased GSIS and inhibited insulin synthesis as well as Pdx-1 transcriptional activity and expression at both the mRNA and protein levels. High glucose also decreased hepcidin expression and secretion. Hepcidin overexpression in MIN6 cells partially reversed the gluco-toxicity-induced downregulation of Pdx-1 and insulin expression and improved GSIS. The restoration of insulin synthesis by transfection of a hepcidin overexpression plasmid confirmed the role of hepcidin in mediating the gluco-toxic inhibition of insulin synthesis.
Our observations suggest that hepcidin is associated with gluco-toxicity-reduced pancreatic β-cell insulin synthesis in type 2 diabetes by inhibiting Pdx-1 expression.