Control of precursor maturation and disposal is an early regulative mechanism in the normal insulin production of pancreatic β-cells

PLoS One. 2011 Apr 29;6(4):e19446. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019446.


The essential folding and maturation process of proinsulin in β-cells is largely uncharacterized. To analyze this process, we improved approaches to immunoblotting, metabolic labeling, and data analysis used to determine the proportion of monomers and non-monomers and changes in composition of proinsulin in cells. We found the natural occurrence of a large proportion of proinsulin in various non-monomer states, i.e., aggregates, in normal mouse and human β-cells and a striking increase in the proportion of proinsulin non-monomers in Ins2(+/Akita) mice in response to a mutation (C96Y) in the insulin 2 (Ins2) gene. Proinsulin emerges in monomer and abundant dual-fate non-monomer states during nascent protein synthesis and shows heavy and preferential ATP/redox-sensitive disposal among secretory proteins during early post-translational processes. These findings support the preservation of proinsulin's aggregation-prone nature and low relative folding rate that permits the plentiful production of non-monomer forms with incomplete folding. Thus, in normal mouse/human β-cells, proinsulin's integrated maturation and degradation processes maintain a balance of natively and non-natively folded states, i.e., proinsulin homeostasis (PIHO). Further analysis discovered the high susceptibility of PIHO to cellular energy and calcium changes, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and reductive/oxidative stress, and insults by thiol reagent and cytokine. These results expose a direct correlation between various extra-/intracellular influences and (a)typical integrations of proinsulin maturation and disposal processes. Overall, our findings demonstrated that the control of precursor maturation and disposal acts as an early regulative mechanism in normal insulin production, and its disorder is crucially linked to β-cell failure and diabetes pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin / biosynthesis*
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Proinsulin / metabolism
  • Protein Folding
  • Time Factors


  • Insulin
  • Proinsulin