Background information: Pancreatic beta-cells require an optimal insulin content to allow instantaneous secretion of insulin. This is maintained by insulin biosynthesis and intracellular degradation of insulin. Degradation may be effected by crinophagy, i.e. the fusion of secretory granules with lysosomes. IL-1beta (interleukin 1beta) induces distinct changes of beta-cell lysosomes. To study the mechanisms for intracellular insulin degradation and crinophagy, isolated mouse pancreatic islets were exposed to IL-1beta and known pathways for IL-1beta actions were blocked. Intracellular insulin degradation was determined by following the fate of radioactively labelled insulin. Crinophagy was studied by ultrastructural analysis. The effects of blocking pathways for IL-1beta were monitored by measurements of nitrite and PGE(2) (prostaglandin E(2)).
Results: IL-1beta caused an enhancement of islet intracellular insulin degradation and an increase in the lysosomal incorporation of beta-cell secretory granules. The effects of IL-1beta were abolished by aminoguanidine, a selective inhibitor of inducible NOS (nitric oxide synthase), or by rofecoxib, a specific inhibitor of COX-2 (cyclo-oxygenase 2). In the absence of IL-1beta, nitroarginine, which is a selective inhibitor of constitutive NOS, caused a decrease in intracellular degradation of insulin in parallel with a decreased production of NO and PGE(2) by the islets.
Conclusions: The correlation between the enhanced intracellular insulin degradation and lysosomal changes caused by IL-1beta suggests that insulin degradation may be effected by crinophagy. Under physiological conditions, significant beta-cell degradation of insulin may depend on the activity of COX-2, possibly stimulated by endogenous NO.