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Numerous compounds stimulate rodent β-cell proliferation; however, translating these findings to human β-cells remains a challenge. To examine human β-cell proliferation in response to such compounds, we developed a medium-throughput in vitro method of quantifying adult human β-cell proliferation markers. This method is based on high-content imaging of dispersed islet cells seeded in 384-well plates and automated cell counting that identifies fluorescently labeled β-cells with high specificity using both nuclear and cytoplasmic markers. β-Cells from each donor were assessed for their function and ability to enter the cell cycle by cotransduction with adenoviruses encoding cell cycle regulators cdk6 and cyclin D3. Using this approach, we tested 12 previously identified mitogens, including neurotransmitters, hormones, growth factors, and molecules, involved in adenosine and Tgf-1β signaling. Each compound was tested in a wide concentration range either in the presence of basal (5 mM) or high (11 mM) glucose. Treatment with the control compound harmine, a Dyrk1a inhibitor, led to a significant increase in Ki-67 β-cells, whereas treatment with other compounds had limited to no effect on human β-cell proliferation. This new scalable approach reduces the time and effort required for sensitive and specific evaluation of human β-cell proliferation, thus allowing for increased testing of candidate human β-cell mitogens.
Although myostatin functions primarily as a negative regulator of skeletal muscle growth and development, accumulating biological and epidemiological evidence indicates an important contributing role in liver disease. In this study, we demonstrate that myostatin suppresses the proliferation of mouse Hepa-1c1c7 murine-derived liver cells (50%; p < 0.001) in part by reducing the expression of the cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases that elicit G1-S phase transition of the cell cycle (p < 0.001). Furthermore, real-time PCR-based quantification of the long noncoding RNA metastasis associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript 1 (Malat1), recently identified as a myostatin-responsive transcript in skeletal muscle, revealed a significant downregulation (25% and 50%, respectively; p < 0.05) in the livers of myostatin-treated mice and liver cells. The importance of Malat1 in liver cell proliferation was confirmed via arrested liver cell proliferation (p < 0.05) in response to partial Malat1 siRNA-mediated knockdown. Myostatin also significantly blunted insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and Akt phosphorylation in liver cells while increasing the phosphorylation of myristoylated alanine-rich C-kinase substrate (MARCKS), a protein that is essential for cancer cell proliferation and insulin-stimulated glucose transport. Together, these findings reveal a plausible mechanism by which circulating myostatin contributes to the diminished regenerative capacity of the liver and diseases characterized by liver insulin resistance.