Generating functional β-cells by inducing their proliferation may provide new perspectives for cell therapy in diabetes. Transcription factor E2F1 controls G1- to S-phase transition during the cycling of many cell types and is required for pancreatic β-cell growth and function. However, the consequences of overexpression of E2F1 in β-cells are unknown.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The effects of E2F1 overexpression on β-cell proliferation and function were analyzed in isolated rat β-cells and in transgenic mice.
Adenovirus AdE2F1-mediated overexpression of E2F1 increased the proliferation of isolated primary rat β-cells 20-fold but also enhanced β-cell death. Coinfection with adenovirus AdAkt expressing a constitutively active form of Akt (protein kinase B) suppressed β-cell death to control levels. At 48 h after infection, the total β-cell number and insulin content were, respectively, 46 and 79% higher in AdE2F1+AdAkt-infected cultures compared with untreated. Conditional overexpression of E2F1 in mice resulted in a twofold increase of β-cell proliferation and a 70% increase of pancreatic insulin content, but did not increase β-cell mass. Glucose-challenged insulin release was increased, and the mice showed protection against toxin-induced diabetes.
Overexpression of E2F1, either in vitro or in vivo, can stimulate β-cell proliferation activity. In vivo E2F1 expression significantly increases the insulin content and function of adult β-cells, making it a strategic target for therapeutic manipulation of β-cell function.