Visualizing superoxide production in normal and diabetic rat islets of Langerhans

J Biol Chem. 2003 Mar 14;278(11):9796-801. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M206913200. Epub 2003 Jan 4.


Oxygen free radicals have been implicated in beta-cell dysfunction and apoptosis associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. The roles of free radicals in diabetes have thus far been defined indirectly by monitoring oxidative tissue damage and the effects of antioxidants, free radical scavengers, and overexpression of superoxide dismutase. We employed the superoxide-mediated oxidation of hydroethidine to ethidium to dynamically and directly assess the relative rates of mitochondrial superoxide anion generation in isolated islets in response to glucose stimulation. Superoxide content of isolated islets increased in response to glucose stimulation. We next compared the oxyradical levels in Zucker lean control and Zucker diabetic fatty rat islets by digital imaging microfluorometry. The superoxide content of Zucker diabetic fatty islets was significantly higher than Zucker lean control islets under resting conditions, relatively insensitive to elevated glucose concentrations, and correlated temporally with a decrease in glucose-induced hyperpolarization of the mitochondrial membrane. Importantly, superoxide levels were elevated in islets from young, pre-diabetic Zucker diabetic fatty animals. Overproduction of superoxide was associated with perturbed mitochondrial morphology and may contribute to abnormal glucose signaling found in the Zucker diabetic fatty model of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental
  • Ethidium / pharmacology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Intercalating Agents / pharmacology
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Zucker
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Superoxides*
  • Time Factors


  • Intercalating Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Superoxides
  • Ethidium
  • Glucose
  • Oxygen