Inhibition of thioredoxin 2 by intracellular methylglyoxal accumulation leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis in INS-1 cells



To investigate the role of thioredoxin 2 (Trx2) inhibition induced by intracellular methylglyoxal (MGO) in pancreatic beta-cell mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis.


Rat pancreatic beta-cell line INS-1 cells were treated with Glo1 siRNAs or exogenous MGO to increase intracellular MGO. AGEs formation was detected by ELISA and mitochondrial ROS was detected by probe MitoSOX. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis and ATP content were measured to evaluate mitochondrial function. Trx2 expression was manipulated by overexpression with recombinant Trx2 lentivirus or knockdown with Trx2 siRNAs, and effects on apoptosis and insulin secretion were measured by flow cytometry and ELISA, respectively.


The increase of intracellular MGO by Glo1 blockage or MGO treatment led to advanced glycation end products (AGEs) overproduction, mitochondrial ROS increase, and insulin secretion paralysis. These were probably due to MGO-induced inhibition of mitochondrial Trx2. Trx2 inhibition by blockage of either Glo1 or Trx2 impaired mitochondrial integrity, inhibited cytochrome C oxidases subunit 1 and 4 (Cox1 and Cox4) expression and further reduced ATP generation, and all of these might lead to insulin paralysis; whereas Trx2 overexpression partially reversed MGO-induced oxidative stress, attenuated insulin secretion by preventing mitochondrial damage. Trx2 overexpression also retarded MGO-induced apoptosis of INS-1 cell through inhibiting ASK1 activation and downregulation of the ASK1-p38 MAPK pathway.


Our results reveal a possible mechanism for beta-cell oxidative damage upon intracellular MGO-induced Trx2 inactivation and mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis.

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This work was supported by the Grant of National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81800729) and Pudong New Area Health System Research Project (PW2018B-09).

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Correspondence to Yan Dong.

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Liu, C., Cao, B., Zhang, Q. et al. Inhibition of thioredoxin 2 by intracellular methylglyoxal accumulation leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis in INS-1 cells. Endocrine (2020).

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  • Methylglyoxal
  • Oxidative stress
  • Thioredoxin 2
  • INS-1 cells
  • ASK1