Specific Glucose-Induced Control of Insulin Receptor Substrate-2 Expression Is Mediated via Ca2+-Dependent Calcineurin/NFAT Signaling in Primary Pancreatic Islet β-Cells

  1. Christopher J. Rhodes1
  1. 1Kovler Diabetes Center, Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  2. 2Theriac Pharmaceutical Corporation, Seattle, Washington
  1. Corresponding author: Christopher J. Rhodes, cjrhodes{at}


OBJECTIVE Insulin receptor substrate-2 (IRS-2) plays an essential role in pancreatic islet β-cells by promoting growth and survival. IRS-2 turnover is rapid in primary β-cells, but its expression is highly regulated at the transcriptional level, especially by glucose. The aim was to investigate the molecular mechanism on how glucose regulates IRS-2 gene expression in β-cells.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Rat islets were exposed to inhibitors or subjected to adenoviral vector–mediated gene manipulations and then to glucose-induced IRS-2 expression analyzed by real-time PCR and immunoblotting. Transcription factor nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) interaction with IRS-2 promoter was analyzed by chromatin immunoprecipitation assay and glucose-induced NFAT translocation by immunohistochemistry.

RESULTS Glucose-induced IRS-2 expression occurred in pancreatic islet β-cells in vivo but not in liver. Modulating rat islet β-cell Ca2+ influx with nifedipine or depolarization demonstrated that glucose-induced IRS-2 gene expression was dependent on a rise in intracellular calcium concentration derived from extracellular sources. Calcineurin inhibitors (FK506, cyclosporin A, and a peptide calcineurin inhibitor [CAIN]) abolished glucose-induced IRS-2 mRNA and protein levels, whereas expression of a constitutively active calcineurin increased them. Specific inhibition of NFAT with the peptide inhibitor VIVIT prevented a glucose-induced IRS-2 transcription. NFATc1 translocation to the nucleus in response to glucose and association of NFATc1 to conserved NFAT binding sites in the IRS-2 promoter were demonstrated.

CONCLUSIONS The mechanism behind glucose-induced transcriptional control of IRS-2 gene expression specific to the islet β-cell is mediated by the Ca2+/calcineurin/NFAT pathway. This insight into the IRS-2 regulation could provide novel therapeutic means in type 2 diabetes to maintain an adequate functional mass.


  • Received March 14, 2011.
  • Accepted August 19, 2011.

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