, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 508-519
Date: 23 Dec 2012

The glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist exenatide restores impaired pro-islet amyloid polypeptide processing in cultured human islets: implications in type 2 diabetes and islet transplantation



Islet amyloid, formed by aggregation of human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP), is associated with beta cell death in type 2 diabetes as well as in cultured and transplanted human islets. Impaired prohIAPP processing due to beta cell dysfunction is implicated in hIAPP aggregation. We examined whether the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonist exenatide can restore impaired prohIAPP processing and reduce hIAPP aggregation in cultured human islets and preserve beta cell function/mass during culture conditions used in clinical islet transplantation.


Isolated human islets (n = 10 donors) were cultured with or without exenatide in normal or elevated glucose for 2 or 7 days. Beta cell apoptosis, proliferation, mass, function, cJUN N-terminal kinase (JNK) and protein kinase B (PKB) activation and amyloid formation were assessed. ProhIAPP, its intermediates and mature hIAPP were detected.


Exenatide-treated islets had markedly lower JNK and caspase-3 activation and beta cell apoptosis, resulting in higher beta/alpha cell ratio and beta cell area than non-treated cultured islets. Exenatide improved beta cell function, manifested as higher insulin response to glucose and insulin content, compared with non-treated cultured islets. Phospho-PKB immunoreactivity was detectable in exenatide-treated but not untreated cultured islets. Islet culture caused impaired prohIAPP processing with decreased mature hIAPP and increased NH2-terminally unprocessed prohIAPP levels resulting in higher release of immature hIAPP. Exenatide restored prohIAPP processing and reduced hIAPP aggregation in cultured islets.


Exenatide treatment enhances survival and function of cultured human islets and restores impaired prohIAPP processing in normal and elevated glucose conditions thereby reducing hIAPP aggregation. GLP-1R agonists may preserve beta cells in conditions associated with islet amyloid formation.

Y. J. Park and Z. Ao contributed equally to these studies.