Background: Recent data have demonstrated that pro-insulin-derived C-peptide can affect the function of several different cell types. We hypothesized that C-peptide might have an influence on the function and survival of isolated human islets.
Methods: Islets were prepared by combining enzymatic digestion and density gradient centrifugation, and the effects of human C-peptide were evaluated acutely and after 24-h incubation. Insulin secretion, apoptosis, quantitative RT-PCR and western-blotting experiments were then performed.
Results: Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion was not affected by C-peptide and, accordingly, mRNA expression of glucose transporter 2 and glucokinase did not differ between islets pre-cultured or not with the hormone. However, apoptosis was significantly lower in islets exposed to C-peptide than in control islets. This was accompanied by a significant increase of mRNA and protein expression of Bcl2, an anti-apoptotic molecule, with no change in the expression of Bax, a pro-apoptotic molecule.
Conclusion: These results show that in human islets pro-insulin C-peptide has no direct effects on insulin secretion, but it decreases islet cell apoptosis. A direct role of C-peptide on beta-cell mass regulation is therefore suggested.
(c) 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.