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Logo of jcinvestThe Journal of Clinical Investigation
J Clin Invest. 1993 July; 92(1): 514–519.
PMCID: PMC293640

Chronic exposure of HIT cells to high glucose concentrations paradoxically decreases insulin gene transcription and alters binding of insulin gene regulatory protein.


Chronically culturing HIT-T15 cells in media containing high glucose concentrations leads to decreased insulin mRNA levels, insulin content, and insulin secretion. These changes can be prevented by culturing the cells in media containing lower glucose levels (Robertson, R. P., H.-J. Zhang, K. L. Pyzdrowski, and T. F. Walseth. 1992. J. Clin. Invest. 90:320-325). The mechanism of this seemingly paradoxical phenomenon was examined by transiently transfecting HIT cells with a chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT) reporter gene controlled by the 5'-regulatory domain of the human insulin gene (INSCAT). Early passages of HIT cells readily expressed INSCAT, whereas late passages of cells chronically cultured in 11.1 mM glucose expressed only 28.7 +/- 2.3% (mean +/- SEM) of the CAT activity expressed in early passages. In contrast, late passages of HIT cells chronically cultured in 0.8 mM glucose retained the ability to express the INSCAT reporter gene to 69.6 +/- 10.0% of the CAT activity observed in early passages. The decrease in INSCAT expression in late passages of cells serially cultured in 11.1 mM glucose was associated with the inability to form a specific nuclear protein-DNA complex with the CT motifs of the human insulin promoter. Formation of this specific protein-DNA complex was preserved in late passages of HIT cells when serially cultured in 0.8 mM glucose. Mutations of the CT motifs caused markedly diminished CAT activity in all passages examined. These data indicate that chronic exposure of the beta cell to high glucose concentrations can paradoxically decrease insulin gene transcription, in part, by altering the ability of a regulatory protein (GSTF) to interact with the insulin gene promoter. This provides a potential mechanism for glucotoxic effects on the beta cell at the level of the insulin gene.

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Selected References

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