Cytokine-Induced β-Cell Death Is Independent of Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Signaling

  1. Mia C. Åkerfeldt1,
  2. Jennifer Howes1,
  3. Jeng Yie Chan1,
  4. Veronica A. Stevens1,
  5. Nacer Boubenna2,
  6. Helen M. McGuire2,
  7. Cecile King2,
  8. Trevor J. Biden1 and
  9. D. Ross Laybutt1
  1. 1Diabetes and Obesity Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, St. Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Immunology and Inflammation Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, St. Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Corresponding author: D. Ross Laybutt, r.laybutt{at}


OBJECTIVE—Cytokines contribute to β-cell destruction in type 1 diabetes. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress–mediated apoptosis has been proposed as a mechanism for β-cell death. We tested whether ER stress was necessary for cytokine-induced β-cell death and also whether ER stress gene activation was present in β-cells of the NOD mouse model of type 1 diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—INS-1 β-cells or rat islets were treated with the chemical chaperone phenyl butyric acid (PBA) and exposed or not to interleukin (IL)-1β and γ-interferon (IFN-γ). Small interfering RNA (siRNA) was used to silence C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) expression in INS-1 β-cells. Additionally, the role of ER stress in lipid-induced cell death was assessed.

RESULTS—Cytokines and palmitate triggered ER stress in β-cells as evidenced by increased phosphorylation of PKR-like ER kinase (PERK), eukaryotic initiation factor (EIF)2α, and Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) and increased expression of activating transcription factor (ATF)4 and CHOP. PBA treatment attenuated ER stress, but JNK phosphorylation was reduced only in response to palmitate, not in response to cytokines. PBA had no effect on cytokine-induced cell death but was associated with protection against palmitate-induced cell death. Similarly, siRNA-mediated reduction in CHOP expression protected against palmitate- but not against cytokine-induced cell death. In NOD islets, mRNA levels of several ER stress genes were reduced (ATF4, BiP [binding protein], GRP94 [glucose regulated protein 94], p58, and XBP-1 [X-box binding protein 1] splicing) or unchanged (CHOP and Edem1 [ER degradation enhancer, mannosidase α–like 1]).

CONCLUSIONS—While both cytokines and palmitate can induce ER stress, our results suggest that, in contrast to lipoapoptosis, the PERK-ATF4-CHOP ER stress–signaling pathway is not necessary for cytokine-induced β-cell death.


  • Published ahead of print at on 30 June 2008.

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    • Accepted June 20, 2008.
    • Received December 20, 2007.
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  1. Diabetes vol. 57 no. 11 3034-3044
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