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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Manipulating proglucagon processing in the pancreatic alpha-cell for the treatment of diabetes Wideman, Rhonda D.


Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) has received much attention as a novel diabetes therapeutic due to its pleotropic blood glucose-lowering effects, including enhancement of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, inhibition of gastric emptying and glucagon secretion, and promotion of beta-cell survival and proliferation. GLP-1 is produced in the intestinal L-cell via processing of the proglucagon precursor by prohormone convertase (PC) 1/3. Proglucagon is also expressed in the pancreatic alpha-cell; however, in this tissue PC2 is typically expressed instead of PC1/3, resulting in differential cleavage of proglucagon to yield glucagon as the major product. We hypothesized that expression of PC1/3 in the alpha-cell would induce GLP-1 production in this tissue, and that this intervention would improve islet function and survival. Initial studies in alpha-cell lines demonstrate that adenoviral delivery of PC1/3 to alpha-cells increases GLP-1 production. By encapsulating and transplanting either PC1/3- or PC2-expressing alpha-cells, the following studies show that while PC2-expressing alpha-cells increase fasting blood glucose and impair glucose tolerance, PC1/3-expressing alpha-cells decrease fasting blood glucose and dramatically improve glucose tolerance in normal mice and in mouse models of diabetes. We further show that transplantation of PC1/3-expressing alpha-cells prevents streptozotocin (STZ)- induced hyperglycemia. We also found that PC1/3-expressing alpha-cells also improve cold-induced thermogenesis in db/db mice, demonstrating a previously unappreciated effect of one or more of the PC1/3-derived proglucagon products. Studies in isolated mouse islets demonstrate that adenoviral delivery of PC1/3 to isolated islets increases islet GLP-1 secretion and improves glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and islet survival. Experiments with diabetic mice show that these GLP-1-producing islets are better able to restore normoglycemia in recipient mice following islet transplantation. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that the alpha-cell can be induced to process proglucagon into PC1/3-derived products, and that this shift redirects the alpha-cell from a hyperglycemia-promoting fate to a blood glucose-lowering one. This research opens up avenues for further investigating the therapeutic potential of inducing islet GLP-1 production in isolated human islets and in vivo in diabetes patients, and may represent a novel way to intervene in the progressive loss of beta-cells that characterizes diabetes.

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