Peroxisome-Generated Hydrogen Peroxide as Important Mediator of Lipotoxicity in Insulin-Producing Cells

  1. Sigurd Lenzen
  1. From the Institute of Clinical Biochemistry, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.
  1. Corresponding author: Sigurd Lenzen, lenzen.sigurd{at}
  1. M.E. and W.G. contributed equally to this work.


OBJECTIVE Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease that is accompanied by elevated levels of nonesterified fatty acids (NEFAs), which contribute to β-cell dysfunction and β-cell loss, referred to as lipotoxicity. Experimental evidence suggests that oxidative stress is involved in lipotoxicity. In this study, we analyzed the molecular mechanisms of reactive oxygen species-mediated lipotoxicity in insulin-producing RINm5F cells and INS-1E cells as well as in primary rat islet cells.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS The toxicity of saturated NEFAs with different chain lengths upon insulin-producing cells was determined by MTT and propidium iodide (PI) viability assays. Catalase or superoxide dismutase overexpressing cells were used to analyze the nature and the cellular compartment of reactive oxygen species formation. With the new H2O2-sensitive fluorescent protein HyPer H2O2 formation induced by exposure to palmitic acid was determined.

RESULTS Only long-chain (>C14) saturated NEFAs were toxic to insulin-producing cells. Overexpression of catalase in the peroxisomes and in the cytosol, but not in the mitochondria, significantly reduced H2O2 formation and protected the cells against palmitic acid-induced toxicity. With the HyPer protein, H2O2 generation was directly detectable in the peroxisomes of RINm5F and INS-1E insulin-producing cells as well as in primary rat islet cells.

CONCLUSIONS The results demonstrate that H2O2 formation in the peroxisomes rather than in the mitochondria are responsible for NEFA-induced toxicity. Therefore, we propose a new concept of fatty acid-induced β-cell lipotoxicity mediated via reactive oxygen species formation through peroxisomal β- oxidation.


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  • Received September 21, 2009.
  • Accepted October 5, 2010.

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  1. Diabetes vol. 60 no. 1 200-208
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