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Tianru Jin

The proglucagon gene (gcg) encodes a number of peptide hormones that are of cell-type specifically expressed in the pancreatic islets, the distal ileum and the large intestine, as well as certain brain neuronal cells. These hormones are important in controlling blood glucose homeostasis, intestinal cell proliferation, and satiety. More importantly, the major hormone generated in the pancreas (i.e. glucagon) exerts opposite effects to the ones that are produced in the intestines (i.e. glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and GLP-2). To understand the mechanisms underlying cell-type-specific gcg expression may lead to the identification of novel drug targets to control endogenous hormone production for therapeutic purposes. Extensive in vitro examinations have shown that more than a half dozen of homeodomain (HD) proteins are able to interact with the gcg gene promoter and activate its expression. In vivo ‘knock-out’ mouse studies, however, cannot demonstrate the role of some of them (i.e. Cdx-2, Brn-4, and Nkx6.2) in the development of pancreatic islet α-cells, suggesting that these HD proteins may exert some redundant functions in the genesis of gcg-producing cells. Investigations have also revealed that gcg expression is controlled by both protein kinase A and Epac signaling pathways in response to cAMP elevation, and cell-type specifically controlled by insulin and the effectors of the Wnt signaling pathway. This review summarizes our current understanding on the mechanisms underlying gcg transcription and presented my interpretations on how the interactions between different signaling networks regulate gcg expression.

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Yi Zhao, Tao Liu, Nina Zhang, Fenghua Yi, Qinghua Wang, Ivan George Fantus, and Tianru Jin

Although the homeobox gene Cdx-2 was initially isolated from the pancreatic β cell line HIT-T15, no examination of its role in regulating endogenous insulin gene expression has been reported. To explore further the role of Cdx-2 in regulating both insulin and proglucagon gene expression, we established an ecdysone-inducible Cdx-2 expression system. This report describes a study using the rat insulinoma cell line RIN-1056A, which abundantly expresses both insulin and proglucagon (glu), and relatively high amounts of endogenous Cdx-2. Following the introduction of the inducible Cdx-2 expression system into this cell line and the antibiotic selection procedure, we obtained novel cell lines that displayed dramatically reduced expression of endogenous Cdx-2, in the absence of the inducer. These novel cell lines did not express detectable amounts of glu mRNA or the glucagon hormone, while their insulin expression was not substantially affected. In the presence of the inducer, however, transfected Cdx-2 expression was dramatically increased, accompanied by stimulation of endogenous Cdx-2 expression. More importantly, activated Cdx-2 expression was accompanied by elevated insulin mRNA expression, and insulin synthesis. Cdx-2 bound to the insulin gene promoter enhancer elements, and stimulated the expression of a luciferase reporter gene driven by these enhancer elements. Furthermore, Cdx-2 and insulin gene expressions in the wild-type RIN-1056A cells were stimulated by forskolin treatment, and forskolin-mediated activation on insulin gene expression was attenuated in the absence of Cdx-2. We suggest that Cdx-2 may mediate the second messenger cAMP in regulating insulin gene transcription.

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Joshua Columbus, YuTing Chiang, Weijuan Shao, Nina Zhang, Dingyan Wang, Herbert Y Gaisano, Qinghua Wang, David M Irwin, and Tianru Jin

Specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms in intronic regions of human TCF7L2 are associated with an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Whether Tcf7l2 is expressed in pancreatic islets of rodent species at a considerable level, however, remains controversial. We used RT-PCR and quantitative RT-PCR to examine Tcf7l2 expression in rodent gut, pancreas, isolated pancreatic islets, and cultured cell lines. The expression level of Tcf7l2 was relatively lower in the pancreas compared to the gut or the pancreatic β-cell line Ins-1. Immunostaining did not detect a Tcf7l2 signal in mouse pancreatic islets. Endogenous canonical Wnt activity was not appreciable in the pancreas of TOPGAL transgenic mice. Both Tcf7 and Tcf7l1, but not Lef1, were expressed in the pancreas. The expression of the three Tcf genes (Tcf7, Tcf7l1, and Tcf7l2) in the pancreas was reduced by treatment with insulin or high-fat diet feeding, in contrast to the stimulation of Tcf7l2 expression by insulin in the gut. We suggest that hyperinsulinemia represses Tcf gene expression in the pancreas. Whether and how this reduction alters the function of pancreatic β cells during hyperinsulinemia deserves further investigation.

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Weijuan Shao, Wenjuan Liu, Ping Liang, Zhuolun Song, Odisho Israel, Gerald J Prud’homme, Qinghua Wang, and Tianru Jin

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration attenuates streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes in rodent models with unclear underlying mechanisms. We found that GABA and Sitagliptin possess additive effect on pancreatic β-cells, which prompted us to ask the existence of common or unique targets of GLP-1 and GABA in pancreatic β-cells. Effect of GABA on expression of thioredoxin-interacting protein (TxNIP) was assessed in the INS-1 832/13 (INS-1) cell line, WT and GLP-1R–/– mouse islets. GABA was also orally administrated in STZ-challenged WT or GLP-1R–/– mice, followed by immunohistochemistry assessment of pancreatic islets. Effect of GABA on Wnt pathway effector β-catenin (β-cat) was examined in INS-1 cells, WT and GLP-1R–/– islets. We found that GABA shares a common feature with GLP-1 on inhibiting TxNIP, while this function was attenuated in GLP-1R–/– islets. In WT mice with STZ challenge, GABA alleviated several ‘diabetic syndromes’, associated with increased β-cell mass. These features were virtually absent in GLP-1R–/– mice. Knockdown TxNIP in INS-1 cells increased GLP-1R, Pdx1, Nkx6.1 and Mafa levels, associated with increased responses to GABA or GLP-1 on stimulating insulin secretion. Cleaved caspase-3 level can be induced by high-glucose, dexamethasone, or STZ in INS-1 cell, while GABA treatment blocked the induction. Finally, GABA treatment increased cellular cAMP level and β-cat S675 phosphorylation in WT but not GLP-1R–/– islets. We, hence, identified TxNIP as a common target of GABA and GLP-1 and suggest that, upon STZ or other stress challenge, the GLP-1R-cAMP-β-cat signaling cascade also mediates beneficial effects of GABA in pancreatic β-cell, involving TxNIP reduction.