Transgene-associated human growth hormone expression in pancreatic β-cells impairs identification of sex-based gene expression differences.

Stancill JS, Osipovich AB, Cartailler JP, Magnuson MA
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2019 316 (2): E196-E209

PMID: 30532991 · PMCID: PMC6397359 · DOI:10.1152/ajpendo.00229.2018

Fluorescent protein reporter genes are widely used to identify and sort murine pancreatic β-cells. In this study, we compared use of the MIP-GFP transgene, which exhibits aberrant expression of human growth hormone (hGH), with a newly derived Ins2 allele that lacks hGH expression on the expression of sex-specific genes. β-Cells from MIP-GFP transgenic mice exhibit changes in the expression of 7,733 genes, or greater than half of their transcriptome, compared with β-cells from Ins2 mice. To determine how these differences might affect a typical differential gene expression study, we analyzed the effect of sex on gene expression using both reporter lines. Six hundred fifty-seven differentially expressed genes were identified between male and female β-cells containing the Ins2 allele. Female β-cells exhibit higher expression of Xist, Tmed9, Arpc3, Eml2, and several islet-enriched transcription factors, including Nkx2-2 and Hnf4a, whereas male β-cells exhibited a generally higher expression of genes involved in cell cycle regulation. In marked contrast, the same male vs. female comparison of β-cells containing the MIP-GFP transgene revealed only 115 differentially expressed genes, and comparison of the 2 lists of differentially expressed genes revealed only 17 that were common to both analyses. These results indicate that 1) male and female β-cells differ in their expression of key transcription factors and cell cycle regulators and 2) the MIP-GFP transgene may attenuate sex-specific differences that distinguish male and female β-cells, thereby impairing the identification of sex-specific variations.

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