The role of IRE1α in the degradation of insulin mRNA in pancreatic β-cells

Kathryn L. Lipson, Rajarshi Ghosh, Fumihiko Urano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

128 Scopus citations


Background: The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a cellular compartment for the biosynthesis and folding of newly synthesized secretory proteins such as insulin. Perturbations to ER homeostasis cause ER stress and subsequently activate cell signaling pathways, collectively known as the Unfolded Protein Responses (UPR). IRE1α is a central component of the UPR. In pancreatic β-cells, IRE1α also functions in the regulation of insulin biosynthesis. Principal Findings: Here we report that hyperactivation of IRE1α caused by chronic high glucose treatment or IRE1α overexpression leads to insulin mRNA degradation in pancreatic β-cells. Inhibition of IRE1α signaling using its dominant negative form prevents insulin mRNA degradation. Islets from mice heterozygous for IRE1α retain expression of more insulin mRNA after chronic high glucose treatment than do their wild-type littermates. Conclusions/Significance: These results reveal a role of IRE1α in insulin mRNA expression under ER stress conditions caused by chronic high glucose. The rapid degradation of insulin mRNA could provide immediate relief for the ER and free up the translocation machinery. Thus, this mechanism would preserve ER homeostasis and help ensure that the insulin already inside the ER can be properly folded and secreted. This adaptation may be crucial for the maintenance of β-cell homeostasis and may explain why the β-cells of type 2 diabetic patients with chronic hyperglycemia stop producing insulin in the absence of apoptosis. This mechanism may also be involved in suppression of the autoimmune type 1 diabetes by reducing the amount of misfolded insulin, which could be a source of "neo-autoantigens."

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1648
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2008
Externally publishedYes

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