Background: The capacity for insulin synthesis in islets is important for islet transplantation to succeed. We developed a microassay that evaluates the potency of human islets by measuring changes in glucose-induced human insulin gene (INS) expression using a single islet in octuplicate samples.
Methods: Poly (A) messenger RNA (mRNA) was purified from a set of single handpicked human islets. Glucose-induced mature (postspliced) and premature (prespliced) insulin mRNA were quantified by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction using several insulin mRNA primers designed at different locations including, intron, exon, and an exon-intron junction.
Results: The synthesis of premature INS mRNA was significantly increased in islets exposed to high glucose for 16 vs. 4 hr (P<0.01), whereas mature INS mRNA showed no difference. Glucose-induced premature INS mRNA synthesis was attenuated in heat-damaged islets. Stimulation index (SI) calculated by normalizing premature by mature INS mRNA (SI_INS mRNA) positively correlated with SI of insulin release (SI_16h insulin) from the same set of islets during 16-hr incubation in high or low glucose media, and SI of glucose-mediated insulin release obtained from the same islet lot in a perifusion system (n=12). Furthermore, linear multiple regression analysis using SI_INS mRNA and SI_16h insulin predicted islet transplantation outcome in nonobese diabetic (NOD) scid mice (n=8).
Conclusion: The measurement of glucose-induced premature INS mRNA normalized by mature INS mRNA can be used to assess the functional quality of human islets and may predict islet function after transplantation in type 1 diabetic patients.