Background: The Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rat is a well-studied non-obese spontaneous type 2 diabetes (T2D) animal model characterized by impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) in the pancreatic beta cells. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short regulatory RNAs involved in many fundamental biological processes. We aim to identify miRNAs that are differentially-expressed in the pancreatic islets of the GK rats and investigate both their short- and long term glucose-dependence during glucose-stimulatory conditions.
Methodology/principal findings: Global profiling of 348 miRNAs in the islets of GK rats and Wistar controls (females, 60 days, N = 6 for both sets) using locked nucleic acid (LNA)-based microarrays allowed for the clear separation of the two groups. Significant analysis of microarrays (SAM) identified 30 differentially-expressed miRNAs, 24 of which are predominantly upregulated in the GK rat islets. Monitoring of qPCR-validated miRNAs during GSIS experiments on isolated islets showed disparate expression trajectories between GK and controls indicating distinct short- and long-term glucose dependence. We specifically found expression of rno-miR-130a, rno-miR-132, rno-miR-212 and rno-miR-335 to be regulated by hyperglycaemia. The putative targets of upregulated miRNAs in the GK, filtered with glucose-regulated mRNAs, were found to be enriched for insulin-secretion genes known to be downregulated in T2D patients. Finally, the binding of rno-miR-335 to a fragment of the 3'UTR of one of known down-regulated exocytotic genes in GK islets, Stxbp1 was shown by luciferase assay.
Conclusions/significance: The perturbed miRNA network found in the GK rat islets is indicative of a system-wide impairment in the regulation of genes important for the normal functions of pancreatic islets, particularly in processes involving insulin secretion during glucose stimulatory conditions. Our findings suggest that the reduced insulin secretion observed in the GK rat may be partly due to upregulated miRNA expression leading to decreased production of key proteins of the insulin exocytotic machinery.