To investigate further the role of cytokines in the pathogenesis of type I insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, the effects of interleukin-1β (IL-1), tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF) and γ-interferon (IFN) were tested on rat insulinoma INS-1 cells. Whereas TNF and IFN had, respectively, a minor or no effect on insulin production, IL-1 caused a time- and dose-dependent decrease in insulin release and lowered the insulin content as well as the preproinsulin mRNA content of INS-1 cells. Both IL-1 and TNF exerted a cytostatic effect, estimated by a decrease in [3H]thymidine incorporation, while only IL-1 decreased cell viability as measured by the colorimetric 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) test.
The glutathione content of INS-1 cells was shown to be modulated by the presence of 2-mercaptoethanol in the culture medium, but was not affected by IL-1 or TNF.
In conclusion, INS-1 cell culture is considered to be a useful model for studying the effect of cytokines on insulin-producing cells. The differentiated features of these cells will permit several questions to be addressed regarding the mechanism of action of IL-1 and eventually other cytokines, both at the level of gene expression and of intracellular signalling.