Objective: To determine the role of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)/c-Met on β-cell survival in diabetogenic conditions in vivo and in response to cytokines in vitro.
Research design and methods: We generated pancreas-specific c-Met-null (PancMet KO) mice and characterized their response to diabetes induced by multiple low-dose streptozotocin (MLDS) administration. We also analyzed the effect of HGF/c-Met signaling in vitro on cytokine-induced β-cell death in mouse and human islets, specifically examining the role of nuclear factor (NF)-κB.
Results: Islets exposed in vitro to cytokines or from MLDS-treated mice displayed significantly increased HGF and c-Met levels, suggesting a potential role for HGF/c-Met in β-cell survival against diabetogenic agents. Adult PancMet KO mice displayed normal glucose and β-cell homeostasis, indicating that pancreatic c-Met loss is not detrimental for β-cell growth and function under basal conditions. However, PancMet KO mice were more susceptible to MLDS-induced diabetes. They displayed higher blood glucose levels, marked hypoinsulinemia, and reduced β-cell mass compared with wild-type littermates. PancMet KO mice showed enhanced intraislet infiltration, islet nitric oxide (NO) and chemokine production, and β-cell apoptosis. c-Met-null β-cells were more sensitive to cytokine-induced cell death in vitro, an effect mediated by NF-κB activation and NO production. Conversely, HGF treatment decreased p65/NF-κB activation and fully protected mouse and, more important, human β-cells against cytokines.
Conclusions: These results show that HGF/c-Met is critical for β-cell survival by attenuating NF-κB signaling and suggest that activation of the HGF/c-Met signaling pathway represents a novel strategy for enhancing β-cell protection.