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Rebecca L Hull, Joshua R Willard, Matthias D Struck, Breanne M Barrow, Gurkirat S Brar, Sofianos Andrikopoulos, and Sakeneh Zraika

Mouse models are widely used for elucidating mechanisms underlying type 2 diabetes. Genetic background profoundly affects metabolic phenotype; therefore, selecting the appropriate model is critical. Although variability in metabolic responses between mouse strains is now well recognized, it also occurs within C57BL/6 mice, of which several substrains exist. This within-strain variability is poorly understood and could emanate from genetic and/or environmental differences. To better define the within-strain variability, we performed the first comprehensive comparison of insulin secretion from C57BL/6 substrains 6J, 6JWehi, 6NJ, 6NHsd, 6NTac and 6NCrl. In vitro, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion correlated with Nnt mutation status, wherein responses were uniformly lower in islets from C57BL/6J vs C57BL/6N mice. In contrast, in vivo insulin responses after 18 weeks of low fat feeding showed no differences among any of the six substrains. When challenged with a high-fat diet for 18 weeks, C57BL/6J substrains responded with a similar increase in insulin release. However, variability was evident among C57BL/6N substrains. Strikingly, 6NJ mice showed no increase in insulin release after high fat feeding, contributing to the ensuing hyperglycemia. The variability in insulin responses among high-fat-fed C57BL/6N mice could not be explained by differences in insulin sensitivity, body weight, food intake or beta-cell area. Rather, as yet unidentified genetic and/or environmental factor(s) are likely contributors. Together, our findings emphasize that caution should be exercised in extrapolating data from in vitro studies to the in vivo situation and inform on selecting the appropriate C57BL/6 substrain for metabolic studies.

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Meghan F Hogan, Daryl J. Hackney, Alfred C. Aplin, Thomas O. Mundinger, Megan J. Larmore, Joseph J. Castillo, Nathalie Esser, Sakeneh Zraika, and Rebecca L Hull

Islet endothelial cells produce paracrine factors important for islet beta-cell function and survival. Under conditions of type 2 diabetes, islet endothelial cells exhibit a dysfunctional phenotype including increased expression of genes involved in cellular adhesion and inflammation. We sought to determine whether treatment of hyperglycemia with the sodium glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitor empagliflozin, either alone or in combination with metformin, would improve markers of endothelial cell function in islets, assessed ex vivo, and if such an improvement is associated with improved insulin secretion in a mouse model of diabetes in vivo. For these studies, db/db diabetic mice and non-diabetic littermate controls were treated for 6 weeks with empagliflozin or metformin, either alone or in combination. For each treatment group, expression of genes indicative of islet endothelial dysfunction was quantified. Islet endothelial and beta-cell area was assessed by morphometry of immunochemically stained pancreas sections. Measurements of plasma glucose and insulin secretion during an intravenous glucose tolerance test were performed on vehicle and drug treated diabetic animals.

We found that expression of endothelial dysfunction marker genes is markedly increased in diabetic mice. Treatment with either empagliflozin or metformin lowered expression of the dysfunction marker genes ex vivo, which correlated with improved glycemic control, and increased insulin release in vivo. Empagliflozin treatment was more effective than metformin alone, with a combination of the two drugs demonstrating the greatest effects. Improving islet endothelial function through strategies such as empagliflozin/metformin treatment may provide an effective approach for improving insulin release in human type 2 diabetes.