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Using an integrated approach to characterize the pancreatic tissue and isolated islets from a 33-year-old with 17 years of type 1 diabetes (T1D), we found that donor islets contained β cells without insulitis and lacked glucose-stimulated insulin secretion despite a normal insulin response to cAMP-evoked stimulation. With these unexpected findings for T1D, we sequenced the donor DNA and found a pathogenic heterozygous variant in the gene encoding hepatocyte nuclear factor-1α (HNF1A). In one of the first studies of human pancreatic islets with a disease-causing HNF1A variant associated with the most common form of monogenic diabetes, we found that HNF1A dysfunction leads to insulin-insufficient diabetes reminiscent of T1D by impacting the regulatory processes critical for glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and suggest a rationale for a therapeutic alternative to current treatment.
Chromatin remodeler Brahma related gene 1 (BRG1) is silenced in approximately 10% of human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAs). We previously showed that BRG1 inhibits the formation of intraductal pancreatic mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) and that IPMN-derived PDA originated from ductal cells. However, the role of BRG1 in pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia-derived (PanIN-derived) PDA that originated from acinar cells remains elusive. Here, we found that exclusive elimination of Brg1 in acinar cells of Ptf1a-CreER; KrasG12D; Brg1fl/fl mice impaired the formation of acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) and PanIN independently of p53 mutation, while PDA formation was inhibited in the presence of p53 mutation. BRG1 bound to regions of the Sox9 promoter to regulate its expression and was critical for recruitment of upstream regulators, including PDX1, to the Sox9 promoter and enhancer in acinar cells. SOX9 expression was downregulated in BRG1-depleted ADMs/PanINs. Notably, Sox9 overexpression canceled this PanIN-attenuated phenotype in KBC mice. Furthermore, Brg1 deletion in established PanIN by using a dual recombinase system resulted in regression of the lesions in mice. Finally, BRG1 expression correlated with SOX9 expression in human PDAs. In summary, BRG1 is critical for PanIN initiation and progression through positive regulation of SOX9. Thus, the BRG1/SOX9 axis is a potential target for PanIN-derived PDA.
Intestinal tuft cells are a morphologically unique cell type, best characterized by striking microvilli that form an apical tuft. These cells represent approximately 0.5% of gut epithelial cells depending on location. While they are known to express chemosensory receptors, their function has remained unclear. Recently, numerous groups have revealed startling insights into intestinal tuft cell biology. Here, we review the latest developments in understanding this peculiar cell type's structure and function. Recent advances in volumetric microscopy have begun to elucidate tuft cell ultrastructure with respect to its cellular neighbors. Moreover, single-cell approaches have revealed greater diversity in the tuft cell population than previously appreciated and uncovered novel markers to characterize this heterogeneity. Finally, advanced model systems have revealed tuft cells' roles in mucosal healing and orchestrating type 2 immunity against eukaryotic infection. While much remains unknown about intestinal tuft cells, these critical advances have illuminated the physiological importance of these previously understudied cells and provided experimentally tractable tools to interrogate this rare cell population. Tuft cells act as luminal sensors, linking the luminal microbiome to the host immune system, which may make them a potent clinical target for modulating host response to a variety of acute or chronic immune-driven conditions.
An increase in hepatic glucose production (HGP) is a key feature of type 2 diabetes. Excessive signaling through hepatic Gs-linked glucagon receptors critically contributes to pathologically elevated HGP. Here, we tested the hypothesis that this metabolic impairment can be counteracted by enhancing hepatic Gi signaling. Specifically, we used a chemogenetic approach to selectively activate Gi-type G proteins in mouse hepatocytes in vivo. Unexpectedly, activation of hepatic Gi signaling triggered a pronounced increase in HGP and severely impaired glucose homeostasis. Moreover, increased Gi signaling stimulated glucose release in human hepatocytes. A lack of functional Gi-type G proteins in hepatocytes reduced blood glucose levels and protected mice against the metabolic deficits caused by the consumption of a high-fat diet. Additionally, we delineated a signaling cascade that links hepatic Gi signaling to ROS production, JNK activation, and a subsequent increase in HGP. Taken together, our data support the concept that drugs able to block hepatic Gi-coupled GPCRs may prove beneficial as antidiabetic drugs.
Before insulin can stimulate myocytes to take up glucose, it must first move from the circulation to the interstitial space. The continuous endothelium of skeletal muscle (SkM) capillaries restricts insulin's access to myocytes. The mechanism by which insulin crosses this continuous endothelium is critical to understand insulin action and insulin resistance; however, methodological obstacles have limited understanding of endothelial insulin transport in vivo. Here, we present an intravital microscopy technique to measure the rate of insulin efflux across the endothelium of SkM capillaries. This method involves development of a fully bioactive, fluorescent insulin probe, a gastrocnemius preparation for intravital microscopy, an automated vascular segmentation algorithm, and the use of mathematical models to estimate endothelial transport parameters. We combined direct visualization of insulin efflux from SkM capillaries with modeling of insulin efflux kinetics to identify fluid-phase transport as the major mode of transendothelial insulin efflux in mice. Model-independent experiments demonstrating that insulin movement is neither saturable nor affected by insulin receptor antagonism supported this result. Our finding that insulin enters the SkM interstitium by fluid-phase transport may have implications in the pathophysiology of SkM insulin resistance as well as in the treatment of diabetes with various insulin analogs.
Eukaryotic cells contain an elegant protein quality control system that is crucial in maintaining cellular homeostasis; however, dysfunction of this system results in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR). Severe or prolonged ER stress is associated with the development of degenerative and fibrotic disorders in multiple organs, as evidenced by the identification of disease-causing mutations in epithelial-restricted genes that lead to protein misfolding or mistrafficking in familial fibrotic diseases. Emerging evidence implicates ER stress and UPR signaling in a variety of profibrotic mechanisms in individual cell types. In epithelial cells, ER stress can induce apoptosis, inflammatory signaling, and epithelial-mesenchymal transition. In other cell types, ER stress is linked to myofibroblast activation, macrophage polarization, and T cell differentiation. ER stress-targeted therapies have begun to emerge using approaches that range from global enhancement of chaperone function to selective targeting of activated ER stress sensors and other downstream mediators. As the complex regulatory mechanisms of this system are further clarified, there are opportunities to develop new disease-modifying therapeutic strategies in a wide range of chronic fibrotic diseases.
p120-Catenin (p120) functions as a tumor suppressor in intestinal cancer, but the mechanism is unclear. Here, using conditional p120 knockout in Apc-sensitized mouse models of intestinal cancer, we have identified p120 as an "obligatory" haploinsufficient tumor suppressor. Whereas monoallelic loss of p120 was associated with a significant increase in tumor multiplicity, loss of both alleles was never observed in tumors from these mice. Moreover, forced ablation of the second allele did not further enhance tumorigenesis, but instead induced synthetic lethality in combination with Apc loss of heterozygosity. In tumor-derived organoid cultures, elimination of both p120 alleles resulted in caspase-3-dependent apoptosis that was blocked by inhibition of Rho kinase (ROCK). With ROCK inhibition, however, p120-ablated organoids exhibited a branching phenotype and a substantial increase in cell proliferation. Access to data from Sleeping Beauty mutagenesis screens afforded an opportunity to directly assess the tumorigenic impact of p120 haploinsufficiency relative to other candidate drivers. Remarkably, p120 ranked third among the 919 drivers identified. Cofactors α-catenin and epithelial cadherin (E-cadherin) were also among the highest scoring candidates, indicating a mechanism at the level of the intact complex that may play an important role at very early stages of of intestinal tumorigenesis while simultaneously restricting outright loss via synthetic lethality.
Glucagon plays a major role in the regulation of glucose homeostasis during fed and fasting states. However, the mechanisms responsible for the regulation of pancreatic α cell mass and function are not completely understood. In the current study, we identified mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) as a major regulator of α cell mass and glucagon secretion. Using mice with tissue-specific deletion of the mTORC1 regulator Raptor in α cells (αRaptorKO), we showed that mTORC1 signaling is dispensable for α cell development, but essential for α cell maturation during the transition from a milk-based diet to a chow-based diet after weaning. Moreover, inhibition of mTORC1 signaling in αRaptorKO mice and in WT animals exposed to chronic rapamycin administration decreased glucagon content and glucagon secretion. In αRaptorKO mice, impaired glucagon secretion occurred in response to different secretagogues and was mediated by alterations in KATP channel subunit expression and activity. Additionally, our data identify the mTORC1/FoxA2 axis as a link between mTORC1 and transcriptional regulation of key genes responsible for α cell function. Thus, our results reveal a potential function of mTORC1 in nutrient-dependent regulation of glucagon secretion and identify a role for mTORC1 in controlling α cell-mass maintenance.
An increase in hepatic glucose production (HGP) represents a key feature of type 2 diabetes. This deficiency in metabolic control of glucose production critically depends on enhanced signaling through hepatic glucagon receptors (GCGRs). Here, we have demonstrated that selective inactivation of the GPCR-associated protein β-arrestin 2 in hepatocytes of adult mice results in greatly increased hepatic GCGR signaling, leading to striking deficits in glucose homeostasis. However, hepatocyte-specific β-arrestin 2 deficiency did not affect hepatic insulin sensitivity or β-adrenergic signaling. Adult mice lacking β-arrestin 1 selectively in hepatocytes did not show any changes in glucose homeostasis. Importantly, hepatocyte-specific overexpression of β-arrestin 2 greatly reduced hepatic GCGR signaling and protected mice against the metabolic deficits caused by the consumption of a high-fat diet. Our data support the concept that strategies aimed at enhancing hepatic β-arrestin 2 activity could prove useful for suppressing HGP for therapeutic purposes.
Pulmonary vascular disease is characterized by remodeling and loss of microvessels and is typically attributed to pathological responses in vascular endothelium or abnormal smooth muscle cell phenotypes. We have challenged this understanding by defining an adult pulmonary mesenchymal progenitor cell (MPC) that regulates both microvascular function and angiogenesis. The current understanding of adult MPCs and their roles in homeostasis versus disease has been limited by a lack of genetic markers with which to lineage label multipotent mesenchyme and trace the differentiation of these MPCs into vascular lineages. Here, we have shown that lineage-labeled lung MPCs expressing the ATP-binding cassette protein ABCG2 (ABCG2+) are pericyte progenitors that participate in microvascular homeostasis as well as adaptive angiogenesis. Activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, either autonomously or downstream of decreased BMP receptor signaling, enhanced ABCG2+ MPC proliferation but suppressed MPC differentiation into a functional pericyte lineage. Thus, enhanced Wnt/β-catenin signaling in ABCG2+ MPCs drives a phenotype of persistent microvascular dysfunction, abnormal angiogenesis, and subsequent exacerbation of bleomycin-induced fibrosis. ABCG2+ MPCs may, therefore, account in part for the aberrant microvessel function and remodeling that are associated with chronic lung diseases.