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BACKGROUND: The Src-homology 2 domain-containing adaptor protein Shb was recently cloned as a serum-inducible gene in the insulin-producing beta-TC1 cell line. Subsequent studies have revealed an involvement of Shb for apoptosis in NIH3T3 fibroblasts and differentiation in the neuronal PC12 cells. To assess a role of Shb for beta-cell function, transgenic mice utilizing the rat insulin promoter to drive expression of Shb were generated. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A gene construct allowing the Shb cDNA to be expressed from the rat insulin 2 promoter was microinjected into fertilized mouse oocytes and implanted into pseudopregnant mice. Mice containing a low copy number of this transgene were bred and used for further experimentation. Shb expression was determined by Western blot analysis. The insulin-positive area of whole pancreas, insulin secretion of isolated islets and islet cell apoptosis, glucose tolerance tests, and in vivo sensitivity to multiple injections of the beta-cell toxin streptozotocin were determined in control CBA and Shb-transgenic mice. RESULTS: Western blot analysis revealed elevated islet content of the Shb protein. Shb-transgenic mice displayed enhanced glucose-disappearance rates in response to an intravenous glucose injection. The relative pancreatic beta-cell area neonatally and at 6 months of age were increased in the Shb-transgenic mice. Islets isolated from Shb-transgenic mice showed enhanced insulin secretion in response to glucose and increased insulin and DNA content. Apoptosis was increased in islets isolated from Shb-transgenic mice compared with control islets both under basal conditions and after incubation with IL-1 beta + IFN-gamma. Rat insulinoma RINm5F cells overexpressing Shb displayed decreased viability during culture in 0.1% serum and after exposure to a cytotoxic dose of nicotinamide. Shb-transgenic mice injected with multiple doses of streptozotocin showed increased blood glucose values compared with the corresponding controls, suggesting increased in vivo susceptibility to this toxin. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that Shb has dual effects on beta-cell growth: whereas Shb increases beta-cell formation during late embryonal stages, Shb also enhances beta-cell death under certain stressful conditions and may thus contribute to beta-cell destruction in type 1 diabetes.