Emerging roles of non-coding RNAs in pancreatic β-cell function and dysfunction

Diabetes Obes Metab. 2012 Oct;14 Suppl 3:12-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2012.01654.x.


Pancreatic β-cells play a central role in glucose homeostasis by tightly regulating insulin release according to the organism's demand. Impairment of β-cell function due to hostile environment, such as hyperglycaemia and hyperlipidaemia, or due to autoimmune destruction of β-cells, results in diabetes onset. Both environmental factors and genetic predisposition are known to be involved in the development of the disease, but the exact mechanisms leading to β-cell dysfunction and death remain to be characterized. Non-coding RNA molecules, such as microRNAs (miRNAs), have been suggested to be necessary for proper β-cell development and function. The present review aims at summarizing the most recent findings about the role of non-coding RNAs in the control of β-cell functions and their involvement in diabetes. We will also provide a perspective view of the future research directions in the field of non-coding RNAs. In particular, we will discuss the implications for diabetes research of the discovery of a new communication mechanism based on cell-to-cell miRNA transfer. Moreover, we will highlight the emerging interconnections between miRNAs and epigenetics and the possible role of long non-coding RNAs in the control of β-cell activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Silencing
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated / metabolism*


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Untranslated