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Jessica Sabourin and Florent Allagnat

Normal plasma glucose level is ensured by the action of insulin, the major hypoglycemic hormone. Therefore, it is not surprising that insulin release from pancreatic β-cells of the islets of Langerhans is controlled by an array of balanced mechanisms in which glucose plays the leading role. Glucose triggers insulin secretion through the well-described pathway of ATP-driven closure of ATP-sensitive potassium channels (KATP), depolarization of the plasma membrane, and opening of the voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels (VDCC). The subsequent rapid rise in cytoplasmic free Ca2+ concentration triggers insulin exocytosis. However, despite more than 40 years of investigation, certain aspects of the intracellular Ca2+ responses to glucose and secretagogues remain unexplained, suggesting the involvement of additional Ca2+ channels. Here, we discuss the emerging role of store-operated Ca2+ channels carried by Orai1 and transient receptor potential canonical 1 (TRPC1) proteins and regulated by the stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1) in the control of glucose-induced insulin secretion. The role of other voltage-independent cation channels formed by other members of the TRP channels family is also addressed.

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Kira Meyerovich, Fernanda Ortis, Florent Allagnat and Alessandra K Cardozo

Insulin-secreting pancreatic β-cells are extremely dependent on their endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to cope with the oscillatory requirement of secreted insulin to maintain normoglycemia. Insulin translation and folding rely greatly on the unfolded protein response (UPR), an array of three main signaling pathways designed to maintain ER homeostasis and limit ER stress. However, prolonged or excessive UPR activation triggers alternative molecular pathways that can lead to β-cell dysfunction and apoptosis. An increasing number of studies suggest a role of these pro-apoptotic UPR pathways in the downfall of β-cells observed in diabetic patients. Particularly, the past few years highlighted a cross talk between the UPR and inflammation in the context of both type 1 (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D). In this article, we describe the recent advances in research regarding the interplay between ER stress, the UPR, and inflammation in the context of β-cell apoptosis leading to diabetes.

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Jacques-Antoine Haefliger, Françoise Rohner-Jeanrenaud, Dorothée Caille, Anne Charollais, Paolo Meda and Florent Allagnat

Channels formed by the gap junction protein Connexin36 (CX36) contribute to the proper control of insulin secretion. We previously demonstrated that chronic exposure to glucose decreases Cx36 levels in insulin-secreting cells in vitro. Here, we investigated whether hyperglycemia also regulates Cx36 in vivo. Using a model of continuous glucose infusion in adult rats, we showed that prolonged (24–48 h) hyperglycemia reduced the Cx36 gene Gjd2 mRNA levels in pancreatic islets. Accordingly, prolonged exposure to high glucose concentrations also reduced the expression and function of Cx36 in the rat insulin-producing INS-1E cell line. The glucose effect was blocked after inhibition of the cAMP/PKA pathway and was associated with an overexpression of the inducible cAMP early repressor ICER-1/ICER-1γ, which binds to a functional cAMP-response element in the promoter of the Cx36 gene Gjd2. The involvement of this repressor was further demonstrated using an antisense strategy of ICER-1 inhibition, which prevented glucose-induced downregulation of Cx36. The data indicate that chronic exposure to glucose alters the in vivo expression of Cx36 by the insulin-producing β-cells through ICER-1/ICER-1γ overexpression. This mechanism may contribute to the reduced glucose sensitivity and altered insulin secretion, which contribute to the pathophysiology of diabetes.