Background: Islet isolation exposes the islet to a variety of cellular stresses and disrupts the cell-matrix relationship--events known to be associated with apoptosis. The purpose of this study was to determine whether islet isolation leads invariably to islet cell death and to specify the mechanisms involved.
Methods: Canine islets were isolated using Liberase CI and purified using a centrifuge. Islets were sampled for up to 5 days in culture and analyzed by routine histology, electron microscopy, immunocytochemistry, and reticulin staining for basement membrane. Apoptosis was assessed by cell death enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated decoxyuridine triphosphate nick and labeling (TUNEL) assay. Activation of the prosurvival ERK1/2 and proapoptotic p38 and JNK were determined by immunoblotting.
Results: Immediately after isolation, the peri-insular basement membrane was absent, and integrin-alpha 5 expression diminished. DNA fragmentation rose from 2.5 +/- 1.8 (arbitrary units) on the day of isolation to 42.4 +/- 6.7 48 hours later (P < .05), coinciding with the appearance of pyknotic nuclei and apoptotic bodies. The apoptotic index determined by TUNEL assay increased from 5% +/- 1% on the day of isolation to 60% +/- 2% on day 5 (P < .01), and most of the affected cells were beta-cells. Finally, the p38 and JNK activity were elevated relative to ERK1/2.
Conclusions: During isolation, islet cells undergo profound changes in structure and function, resulting in beta-cell apoptosis. These findings suggest that strategies directed to the manipulation of the cell-matrix relationship and the modulation of mitogen-activated protein kinase signal transduction may offer a valuable new approach to improving islet transplant outcome.