Role of apoptosis in failure of beta-cell mass compensation for insulin resistance and beta-cell defects in the male Zucker diabetic fatty rat.

  1. A Pick,
  2. J Clark,
  3. C Kubstrup,
  4. M Levisetti,
  5. W Pugh,
  6. S Bonner-Weir and
  7. K S Polonsky
  1. Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago and Pritzker School of Medicine, Illinois 60637, USA.


    To define the mechanisms involved in the evolution of diabetes in the Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rat, beta-cell mass and replication rates were determined by immunochemistry, point-counting morphometry, and 6-h 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation. The beta-cell mass in 5- to 7-week-old prediabetic ZDF rats (4.3 +/- 0.06 mg) was similar to age-matched insulin-resistant Zucker fatty (ZF) rats (3.7 +/- 0.05 mg) and greater than that in Zucker lean control (ZLC) rats (1.9 +/- 0.3, P < 0.05). At 12 weeks (after diabetes onset), beta-cell mass in the ZDF rats (8.1 +/- 1.7 mg) was significantly lower than the ZF rats (15.7 +/- 1.8 mg). The mass in the ZF rats was significantly greater than in the ZLC rats (4.3 +/- 0.8 mg, P < 0.05). The beta-cell proliferation rate (mean of both time points) was significantly greater in the ZDF rats (0.88 +/- 0.1%) compared with the ZF and ZLC rats (0.53 +/- 0.07%, 0.62 +/- 0.07%, respectively, P < 0.05), yet ZDF rats have a lower beta-cell mass than the ZF rats despite a higher proliferative rate. Morphological evidence of neogenesis and apoptosis is evident in the ZF and ZDF rats. In addition, even at 5-7 weeks a modest defect in insulin secretion per beta-cell unit was found by pancreas perfusion. These studies provide evidence that the expansion of beta-cell mass in response to insulin resistance and insulin secretory defects in diabetic ZDF rats is inadequate. This failure of beta-cell mass expansion in the ZDF rat does not appear to be from a reduction in the rate of beta-cell proliferation or neogenesis, suggesting an increased rate of cell death by apoptosis.

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