Aims/hypothesis: Human pancreatic duct cells are closely associated with islet beta cells, and contaminate islet suspensions transplanted in Type 1 diabetes mellitus patients. Activated duct cells produce cytotoxic mediators and possibly contribute to the pathogenesis of Type 1 diabetes mellitus or islet graft rejection. As CD40 transduces activation signals involved in inflammatory and immune disorders, we investigated CD40 expression on duct cells and their response to CD40 engagement.
Methods: CD40 expression on human pancreatic duct cells was analysed by flow cytometry and immunohistochemical analyses. To assess the function of CD40 expression on duct cells, activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor-kappa B was determined using electrophoretic mobility shift assay and ELISA. Cytokine mRNA levels were quantified by real-time RT-PCR, and protein levels by Luminex technology.
Results: Isolated human pancreatic duct cells and Capan-2 cell lines were found to express constitutively CD40. The expression of CD40 on duct cells was confirmed in vivo on human normal and pathological pancreatic specimens. CD40 ligation on Capan-2 cells induced rapid nuclear factor-kappa B activation, and supershift assays demonstrated that p50/p65 heterodimers and p50/p50 homodimers were present in the activated complexes in the nucleus. This activation was accompanied by tumour necrosis factor-a and interleukin-1beta mRNA accumulation. Tumour necrosis factor-alpha protein secretion was confirmed in CD40-activated Capan-2 cells and in isolated human pancreatic duct cells.
Conclusions/interpretation: Interaction between activated T lymphocytes expressing CD40 ligand and duct cells expressing CD40 may contribute to the immune responses involved in Type 1 diabetes mellitus and islet graft rejection. Interfering with CD40-mediated duct cell activation could alleviate beta cell damage of immune origin.