Monitoring of exocytosis and endocytosis of insulin secretory granules in the pancreatic beta-cell line MIN6 using pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein (pHluorin) and confocal laser microscopy

Biochem J. 2002 Apr 1;363(Pt 1):73-80. doi: 10.1042/0264-6021:3630073.


The dynamics of exocytosis/endocytosis of insulin secretory granules in pancreatic beta-cells remains to be clarified. In the present study, we visualized and analysed the motion of insulin secretory granules in MIN6 cells using pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein (pHluorin) fused to either insulin or the vesicle membrane protein, phogrin. In order to monitor insulin exocytosis, pHluorin, which is brightly fluorescent at approximately pH 7.4, but not at approximately pH 5.0, was attached to the C-terminus of insulin. To monitor the motion of insulin secretory granules throughout exocytosis/endocytosis, pHluorin was inserted between the third and fourth amino acids after the identified signal-peptide cleavage site of rat phogrin cDNA. Using this method of cDNA construction, pHluorin was located in the vesicle lumen, which may enable discrimination of the unfused acidic secretory granules from the fused neutralized ones. In MIN6 cells expressing insulin-pHluorin, time-lapse confocal laser scanning microscopy (5 or 10 s intervals) revealed the appearance of fluorescent spots by depolarization after stimulation with 50 mM KCl and 22 mM glucose. The number of these spots in the image at the indicated times was counted and found to be consistent with the results of insulin release measured by RIA during the time course. In MIN6 cells expressing phogrin-pHluorin, data showed that fluorescent spots appeared following high KCl stimulation and remained stationary for a while, moved on the plasma membrane and then disappeared. Thus we demonstrate the visualized motion of insulin granule exocytosis/endocytosis using the pH-sensitive marker, pHluorin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • DNA, Complementary / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endocytosis*
  • Exocytosis*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Genetic
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Insulin
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Glucose