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C Stewart, N A Taylor, K Docherty, and C J Bailey


The feasibility of somatic cell gene therapy as a method of insulin delivery has been studied in mice. Murine pituitary AtT20 cells were transfected with a human preproinsulin DNA in a plasmid containing a metallothionein promoter and a gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic G418. The AtT20MtIns-1·4 clone of cells was selected because of its higher insulin-releasing activity compared with other clones. After culturing for 24 h in Dulbecco's medium containing 10 mM glucose, the AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells released human insulin at about 5 ng/106 cells per 24 h. Insulin release was not significantly altered by raised concentrations of glucose, potassium or calcium, but insulin release was increased by 20 mm arginine, 5 mm isomethylbutylxanthine and 90 μm zinc.

AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells (2 × 106) were implanted intraperitoneally into non-diabetic athymic nude (nu/nu) mice, and the mice were made diabetic by injection of streptozotocin after 7 days. Release of human insulin in vivo was assessed using a specific plasma human C-peptide assay. Human C-peptide concentrations were maintained at about 01 pmol/ml throughout the 29 days of the study. The development of streptozotocin-induced hyperglycaemia was delayed in recipients of the cells releasing human insulin, compared with a control group receiving an implant of non-transfected cells. At autopsy the implanted AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells in each recipient had formed a tumour-like aggregation, with an outer region of insulin-containing cells. The study suggests that somatic cell gene therapy offers a feasible approach to insulin delivery.

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Y. Shakur, K. I. J. Shennan, N. A. Taylor, and K. Docherty


The biosynthesis and secretion of human proinsulin and a mutant human proinsulin with a major deletion in the C-peptide, (des 38–62)proinsulin, was studied in monkey kidney cells (Cos-7) transfected with cDNAs encoding the respective normal or mutant human preproinsulins. Transfected cells were labelled with [3H]leucine, and insulin-like material was immunoprecipitated and analysed by sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. It was found that the prepeptide was removed from both the normal and mutant preproinsulins, and that there was no further processing to insulin. The normal proinsulin was rapidly released from the transfected cells, with little intracellular accumulation, while the mutant proinsulin was retained within the cell, with only small quantities of radiolabelled material in the medium. The intracellular mutant proinsulin was membrane bound and located predominantly within a microsomal fraction. These results suggest that C-peptide plays an important role in the efficient transfer of proinsulin through the early stages of the secretory pathway.