Pancreatic β-cells activate a JunB/ATF3-dependent survival pathway during inflammation

Oncogene. 2012 Mar 29;31(13):1723-32. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.353. Epub 2011 Aug 15.


Destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic β-cells by local autoimmune inflammation is a hallmark of type 1 diabetes. Histochemical analysis of pancreases from non-obese diabetic mice indicated activation of the transcription factor JunB/AP-1 (activator protein-1) after autoimmune infiltration of the islets. In vitro studies demonstrated that the cytokines tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interferon (IFN)-γ induce JunB expression as a protective mechanism against apoptosis in both human and rodent β-cells. The gene network affected was studied by microarray analysis showing that JunB regulates nearly 20% of the cytokine-modified β-cell genes, including the transcription factor ATF3. Direct transcriptional induction of ATF3 by JunB is a key event for β-cell survival after TNF-α+IFN-γ treatment. Moreover, pharmacological upregulation of JunB/ATF3 via increased cAMP protected rodent primary β-cells and human islet cells against pro-inflammatory mediators. These results were confirmed in genetically modified islets derived from Ubi-JunB transgenic mice. Our findings identify ATF3 as a novel downstream target of JunB in the survival mechanism of β-cells under inflammatory stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 3 / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-jun / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-jun / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • ATF3 protein, human
  • Activating Transcription Factor 3
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-jun
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha