, Volume 62, Issue 6, pp 993–999 | Cite as

Macrophage alterations in islets of obese mice linked to beta cell disruption in diabetes

  • Jeng Yie Chan
  • Kailun Lee
  • Emma L. Maxwell
  • Cassandra Liang
  • D. Ross LaybuttEmail author
Short Communication



Mild islet inflammation has been suggested as a contributing factor to beta cell failure in type 2 diabetes. Macrophage levels are elevated in the islets of humans and mice with type 2 diabetes, but their effects on beta cells are not understood. Our goal was to examine the gene expression changes in islet-associated macrophages in obesity models with opposing disposition to diabetes development and to assess their potential contribution to beta cell (mal)adaptation.


Islets were isolated from lean control mice, obese diabetes-prone db/db mice and obese diabetes-resistant ob/ob mice. Macrophages were sorted using flow cytometry. Islets were treated ex vivo with clodronate-containing liposomes to deplete macrophages. Gene expression was assessed by real-time RT-PCR.


Macrophage levels were increased in islets from db/db mice but not in islets from ob/ob mice compared with lean control mice. Macrophages from db/db and ob/ob islets displayed distinct changes in gene expression compared with control islet macrophages, suggesting differential shifts in functional state. Macrophages from db/db islets displayed increased expression of interferon regulatory factor 5 (Irf5), IL-1 receptor antagonist (Il1rn) and mannose receptor C-type 1 (Mrc1), whereas macrophages from ob/ob islets showed elevated levels of transforming growth factor beta 1 (Tgfb1) and reduced IL-1β (Il1b). Clodronate-liposome treatment of islets depleted macrophages, as evidenced by reduced mRNA expression of Cd11b (also known as Itgam) and F4/80 (also known as Adgre1) compared with PBS-liposome-treated islets. The depletion of macrophages in db/db islets increased the expression of genes related to beta cell identity. The mRNA levels of islet-associated transcription factors (Mafa and Pdx1), glucose transporter (Glut2 [also known as Slc2a2]), ATP-sensitive K+ channel (Kcnj11), incretin receptor (Gipr) and adaptive unfolded protein response (UPR) genes (Xbp1, Hspa5, Pdia4 and Fkbp11) were increased in db/db islets after macrophage depletion, whereas the mRNA levels of the deleterious UPR effector, Ddit3, were reduced. In contrast, depletion of macrophages in islets of ob/ob mice did not affect beta cell identity gene expression.


The findings of this study suggest that distinct alterations in islet macrophages of obese mice are critically important for the disruption of beta cell gene expression in diabetes.


Beta cell Gene expression Inflammation Islets Macrophage Type 2 diabetes Unfolded protein response 



Unfolded protein response



We thank L. M. Thai and E. Lam (Garvan Flow Facility) for technical assistance.

Contribution statement

JYC and DRL conceived and designed experiments, acquired and analysed data and wrote the manuscript. KL, ELM and CL acquired and analysed data and critically reviewed the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript. DRL is the guarantor of this work.


This work was supported by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia and the Diabetes Australia Research Program. JYC is supported by an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship.

Duality of interest

The authors declare that there is no duality of interest associated with this manuscript.

Supplementary material

125_2019_4844_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (277 kb)
ESM (PDF 277 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeng Yie Chan
    • 1
  • Kailun Lee
    • 1
  • Emma L. Maxwell
    • 1
  • Cassandra Liang
    • 1
  • D. Ross Laybutt
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Garvan Institute of Medical Research, St Vincent’s Clinical SchoolUNSW SydneySydneyAustralia

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