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Apoptosis rate and transcriptional response of pancreatic islets exposed to the PPAR gamma agonist Pioglitazone

Rodrigo N Lamounier12, Cassio N Coimbra13, Peter White2, Flavia L Costal1, Leonardo S Oliveira13, Daniel Giannella-Neto4, Klaus H Kaestner2* and Maria Lúcia Corrêa-Giannella1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Endocrinology LIM-25, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Av. Dr. Arnaldo 455 #4305, 01246-903, São Paulo, Brazil

2 Department of Genetics and Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 752B CRB 415 Curie Blvd., 19104, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

3 Laboratory Medicine, University of Santo Amaro, Sao Paulo, Brazil

4 Postgraduate Program in Medicine, Universidade Nove de Julho - Uninove, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome 2013, 5:1  doi:10.1186/1758-5996-5-1

Published: 8 January 2013


To explore the molecular pathways underlying thiazolidinediones effects on pancreatic islets in conditions mimicking normo- and hyperglycemia, apoptosis rate and transcriptional response to Pioglitazone at both physiological and supraphysiological glucose concentrations were evaluated. Adult rat islets were cultured at physiological (5.6 mM) and supraphysiological (23 mM) glucose concentrations in presence of 10 μM Pioglitazone or vehicle. RNA expression profiling was evaluated with the PancChip 13k cDNA microarray after 24-h, and expression results for some selected genes were validated by qRT-PCR. The effects of Pioglitazone were investigated regarding apoptosis rate after 24-, 48- and 72-h. At 5.6 mM glucose, 101 genes were modulated by Pioglitazone, while 1,235 genes were affected at 23 mM glucose. Gene networks related to lipid metabolism were identified as altered by Pioglitazone at both glucose concentrations. At 23 mM glucose, cell cycle and cell death pathways were significantly regulated as well. At 5.6 mM glucose, Pioglitazone elicited a transient reduction in islets apoptosis rate while at 23 mM, Bcl2 expression was reduced and apoptosis rate was increased by Pioglitazone. Our data demonstrate that the effect of Pioglitazone on gene expression profile and apoptosis rate depends on the glucose concentration. The modulation of genes related to cell death and the increased apoptosis rate observed at supraphysiological glucose concentration raise concerns about Pioglitazone’s direct effects in conditions of hyperglycemia and reinforce the necessity of additional studies designed to evaluate TZDs effects on the preservation of β-cell function in situations where glucotoxicity might be more relevant than lipotoxicity.

PPARγ; Pioglitazone; Islets; Gene expression; Apoptosis