Besides its role as a carboxylase cofactor, biotin has a wide repertoire of effects on gene expression, development and metabolism. Pharmacological concentrations of biotin enhance insulin secretion and the expression of genes and signaling pathways that favor islet function in vitro. However, the in vivo effects of biotin supplementation on pancreatic islet function are largely unknown. In the present study, we investigated whether in vivo biotin supplementation in the diet has positive effects in rodent pancreatic islets. Male BALB/cAnN Hsd mice were fed a control or a biotin-supplemented diet over 8 weeks postweaning and tested for glucose homeostasis, insulin secretion, islet gene expression and pancreatic morphometry. Insulin secretion increased from the islets of biotin-supplemented mice, together with the messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of several transcription factors regulating insulin expression and secretion, including forkhead box A2, pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1 and hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α. The mRNA abundance of glucokinase, Cacna1d, acetyl-CoA carboxylase, and insulin also increased. Consistent with these effects, glucose tolerance improved, and glucose-stimulated serum insulin levels increased in biotin-supplemented mice, without changes in fasting glucose levels or insulin tolerance. Biotin supplementation augmented the proportion of beta cells by enlarging islet size and, unexpectedly, also increased the percentage of islets with alpha cells at the islet core. mRNA expression of neural cell adhesion molecule 1, an adhesion protein participating in the maintenance of islet architecture, decreased in biotin-supplemented islets. These findings provide, for the first time, insight into how biotin supplementation exerts its effects on function and proportion of beta cells, suggesting a role for biotin in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
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