Zinc transporter gene expression is regulated by pro-inflammatory cytokines: a potential role for zinc transporters in beta-cell apoptosis?

BMC Endocr Disord. 2009 Feb 25;9:7. doi: 10.1186/1472-6823-9-7.


Background: Beta-cells are extremely rich in zinc and zinc homeostasis is regulated by zinc transporter proteins. beta-cells are sensitive to cytokines, interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) has been associated with beta-cell dysfunction and -death in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This study explores the regulation of zinc transporters following cytokine exposure.

Methods: The effects of cytokines IL-1beta, interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) on zinc transporter gene expression were measured in INS-1-cells and rat pancreatic islets. Being the more sensitive transporter, we further explored ZnT8 (Slc30A8): the effect of ZnT8 over expression on cytokine induced apoptosis was investigated as well as expression of the insulin gene and two apoptosis associated genes, BAX and BCL2.

Results: Our results showed a dynamic response of genes responsible for beta-cell zinc homeostasis to cytokines: IL-1beta down regulated a number of zinc-transporters, most strikingly ZnT8 in both islets and INS-1 cells. The effect was even more pronounced when mixing the cytokines. TNF-alpha had little effect on zinc transporter expression. IFN-gamma down regulated a number of zinc transporters. Insulin expression was down regulated by all cytokines. ZnT8 over expressing cells were more sensitive to IL-1beta induced apoptosis whereas no differences were observed with IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, or a mixture of cytokines.

Conclusion: The zinc transporting system in beta-cells is influenced by the exposure to cytokines. Particularly ZnT8, which has been associated with the development of diabetes, seems to be cytokine sensitive.