, Volume 52, Issue 10, pp 2142-2150
Date: 30 Jul 2009

Effects of glucokinase activators GKA50 and LY2121260 on proliferation and apoptosis in pancreatic INS-1 beta cells



Glucokinase (GK), an enzyme that phosphorylates glucose to form glucose 6-phosphate, serves as the glucose sensor that regulates insulin secretion in beta cells. GK activators (GKAs) activate GK via binding to an allosteric site of the enzyme. GKAs increase glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and decrease blood glucose levels. Using the differentiated beta cell line INS-1, we investigated the role of GKAs in promoting beta cell growth and survival and preventing beta cell apoptosis induced by chronic exposure to high levels of glucose.


Proliferation was assessed using BrdU incorporation. Apoptosis was measured using caspase-3 activity. Immunoblot analysis was used to detect protein levels and the degree of phosphorylation.


The GK agonists GKA50 and LY2121260 increased both cell replication and cell numbers when tested at basal levels of glucose (3 mmol/l) in INS-1 cells. GKAs promoted INS-1 cell proliferation via upregulation of insulin receptor substrate-2 and subsequent activation of protein kinase B phosphorylation. GKA50 also prevented the INS-1 cell apoptosis that was induced by chronic high glucose conditions, probably via an increase in GK protein levels and normalisation of the apoptotic protein BCL2-associated agonist of cell death (BAD) and its phosphorylation. As a result of the reduction in cell apoptosis, GKA50 prevented cell loss and maintained glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. In addition, the anti-apoptotic activity of GKA50 was significantly abrogated by other GKAs that do not inhibit apoptosis, suggesting that direct binding of GKA50 to GK is essential for its anti-apoptotic effect.


Our results suggest novel roles of GKAs in promoting beta cell growth and preventing chronic-hyperglycaemia-induced beta cell apoptosis. Thus, GKAs may provide novel therapeutics that increase beta cell mass to maintain euglycaemia in diabetes.