Glucose Induces Pancreatic Islet Cell Apoptosis That Requires the BH3-Only Proteins Bim and Puma and Multi-BH Domain Protein Bax

  1. Helen E. Thomas1,2
  1. 1St. Vincent's Institute, Melbourne, Australia;
  2. 2The University of Melbourne Department of Medicine, St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia;
  3. 3The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.
  1. Corresponding author: Helen E. Thomas, hthomas{at}


OBJECTIVE High concentrations of circulating glucose are believed to contribute to defective insulin secretion and β-cell function in diabetes and at least some of this effect appears to be caused by glucose-induced β-cell apoptosis. In mammalian cells, apoptotic cell death is controlled by the interplay of proapoptotic and antiapoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family. We investigated the apoptotic pathway induced in mouse pancreatic islet cells after exposure to high concentrations of the reducing sugars ribose and glucose as a model of β-cell death due to long-term metabolic stress.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Islets isolated from mice lacking molecules implicated in cell death pathways were exposed to high concentrations of glucose or ribose. Apoptosis was measured by analysis of DNA fragmentation and release of mitochondrial cytochrome c.

RESULTS Deficiency of interleukin-1 receptors or Fas did not diminish apoptosis, making involvement of inflammatory cytokine receptor or death receptor signaling in glucose-induced apoptosis unlikely. In contrast, overexpression of the prosurvival protein Bcl-2 or deficiency of the apoptosis initiating BH3-only proteins Bim or Puma, or the downstream apoptosis effector Bax, markedly reduced glucose- or ribose-induced killing of islets. Loss of other BH3-only proteins Bid or Noxa, or the Bax-related effector Bak, had no impact on glucose-induced apoptosis.

CONCLUSIONS These results implicate the Bcl-2 regulated apoptotic pathway in glucose-induced islet cell killing and indicate points in the pathway at which interventional strategies can be designed.


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    • Received August 4, 2009.
    • Accepted November 24, 2009.
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  1. Diabetes vol. 59 no. 3 644-652
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