Protection of pancreatic beta-cells by exendin-4 may involve the reduction of endoplasmic reticulum stress; in vivo and in vitro studies

Shin Tsunekawa, Naoki Yamamoto, Katsura Tsukamoto, Yuji Itoh, Yukiko Kaneko, Toshihide Kimura, Yoh Ariyoshi, Yoshitaka Miura, Yutaka Oiso, Ichiro Niki
Journal of Endocrinology 2007, 193 (1): 65-74
The aim of this study was to investigate the in vivo and in vitro effects of exendin-4, a potent glucagon-like peptide 1 agonist, on the protection of the pancreatic beta-cells against their cell death. In in vivo experiments, we used beta-cell-specific calmodulin-overexpressing mice where massive apoptosis takes place in their beta-cells, and we examined the effects of chronic treatment with exendin-4. Chronic and s.c. administration of exendin-4 reduced hyperglycemia. The treatment caused significant increases of the insulin contents of the pancreas and islets, and retained the insulin-positive area. Dispersed transgenic islet cells lived only shortly, and several endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-related molecules such as immunoglobulin-binding protein (Bip), inositol-requiring enzyme-1alpha, X-box-binding protein-1 (XBP-1), RNA-activated protein kinase-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase, activating transcription factor-4, and C/EBP-homologous protein (CHOP) were more expressed in the transgenic islets. We also found that the spliced form of XBP-1, a marker of ER stress, was also increased in beta-cell-specific calmodulin-overexpressing transgenic islets. In the quantitative real-time PCR analyses, the expression levels of Bip and CHOP were reduced in the islets from the transgenic mice treated with exendin-4. These findings suggest that excess of ER stress occurs in the transgenic beta-cells, and the suppression of ER stress and resultant protection against cell death may be involved in the anti-diabetic effects of exendin-4.

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