Increased beta-cell apoptosis and impaired insulin signaling pathway contributes to the onset of diabetes in OLETF rats

Cell Physiol Biochem. 2008;21(5-6):445-54. doi: 10.1159/000129637. Epub 2008 Apr 24.


Inappropriate adaptation of beta-cell mass is a primary cause of the development of diabetic hyperglycemia. However, the mechanisms underlying regulation of the beta-cell mass in response to insulin resistance or in the development of type 2 diabetes remain unclear. We determined the insulin signaling in the beta-cells and the adaptation of the beta-cell mass in response to the progression of insulin resistance in OLETF rats. By 25 weeks of age, at the onset of diabetes, compared to control LETO rats, OLETF rats developed obesity (Body weight: LETO vs OLETF = 474.0+/-9.5 vs 581.3+/-21.8 g, P < 0.001, n=6), hyperlipidemia (Cholesterol: LETO vs OLETF = 1.67+/-0.07 vs 2.19+/-0.20 mM, P < 0.05, n=6; triglyceride: LETO vs OLETF = 0.36+/-0.05 vs 1.36+/-0.12 mM, P < 0.001, n=6), and impaired glucose tolerance (AUC: LETO vs OLETF = 10.3+/-3.4 vs 29.6+/-7.8 mM, P < 0.001, n=6). Insulin sensitivities as assessed by the insulin sensitivity index (ISI) and the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) indicated that OLETF rats developed severe insulin resistance. The measurement of plasma insulin levels by ELISA demonstrated, at the onset of diabetes, that fasting insulin levels were increased by 1.2-fold, and 2 hr postprandial insulin levels were increased by 3-fold (P < 0.05, n=6) in OLETF rats compared to age-matched LETO mates which is suggestive of hyperinsulinemia. Immunostaining detected a significant reduction in the insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1) (by 54%, P < 0.001) and IRS2 (by 55%, P < 0.001) in the beta-cells of the OLETF rats. Interestingly, while the beta-cell mass was found to be increased (by 2.2-fold; P < 0.001), the beta-cell insulin content as determined by immunostaining was significantly reduced by 32% (P < 0.001) in the OLETF rats when compared to the controls. Our findings suggest that despite increasing beta-cell mass the impaired beta-cell insulin signaling and reduced beta-cell insulin content may contribute to the onset of overt diabetes in OLETF rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Shape
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred OLETF
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Insulin
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Irs1 protein, rat
  • Irs2 protein, rat
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases