Aims/hypothesis: Transcriptional networks in beta cells are modulated by extracellular signals such as glucose, thereby ensuring beta cell adaptation to systemic insulin demands. Ageing is a main risk factor for type 2 diabetes and has been associated with perturbed expression of genes essential for beta cell function. We aimed to uncover glucose-dependent gene modules in mouse pancreatic islets and investigate how this regulation is affected by ageing.
Methods: Global gene expression was assessed in pancreatic islets from young and aged wild-type and Cdkn2a (Ink4a/Arf)-deficient mice exposed to different glucose concentrations. Gene modules were identified by gene ontology and gene set enrichment analysis.
Results: Gene expression profiling revealed that variations in glucose levels have a widespread and highly dynamic impact on the islet transcriptome. Stimulatory glucose levels induced the expression of highly beta cell-selective genes and repressed the expression of ubiquitous genes involved in stress and antiproliferative responses, and in organelle biogenesis. Interestingly, a module comprising cell cycle genes was significantly induced between non-stimulatory and stimulatory glucose concentrations. Unexpectedly, glucose regulation of gene expression was broadly maintained in islets from old mice. However, glucose induction of mitotic genes was selectively lost in aged islets and was not even restored in the absence of the cell cycle inhibitors p16(INK4a) and p19(ARF), which have been implicated in the restricted proliferative capacity of beta cells with advanced age.
Conclusions/interpretation: Glucose-dependent transcriptional networks in islets are globally conserved during ageing, with the exception of the ability of stimulatory glucose levels to induce a cell cycle gene module.