Objective: Beta cells of pancreatic islets are susceptible to functional deficits and damage by hypoxia. Here we aimed to characterize such effects and to test for and pharmacological means to alleviate a negative impact of hypoxia.
Methods and design: Rat and human pancreatic islets were subjected to 5.5 h of hypoxia after which functional and viability parameters were measured subsequent to the hypoxic period and/or following a 22 h re-oxygenation period. Preconditioning with diazoxide or other agents was usually done during a 22 h period prior to hypoxia.
Results: Insulin contents decreased by 23% after 5.5 h of hypoxia and by 61% after a re-oxygenation period. Preconditioning with diazoxide time-dependently alleviated these hypoxia effects in rat and human islets. Hypoxia reduced proinsulin biosynthesis ((3)H-leucine incorporation into proinsulin) by 35%. Preconditioning counteracted this decrease by 91%. Preconditioning reduced hypoxia-induced necrosis by 40%, attenuated lowering of proteins of mitochondrial complexes I-IV and enhanced stimulation of HIF-1-alpha and phosphorylated AMPK proteins. Preconditioning by diazoxide was abolished by co-exposure to tolbutamide or elevated potassium (i.e. conditions which increase Ca(2+) inflow). Preconditioning with nifedipine, a calcium channel blocker, partly reproduced effects of diazoxide. Both diazoxide and nifedipine moderately reduced basal glucose oxidation whereas glucose-induced oxygen consumption (tested with diazoxide) was unaffected. Preconditioning with diaxoxide enhanced insulin contents in transplants of rat islets to non-diabetic rats and lowered hyperglycemia vs. non-preconditioned islets in streptozotocin-diabetic rats. Preconditioning of human islet transplants lowered hyperglycemia in streptozotocin-diabetic nude mice.
Conclusions: 1) Prior blocking of Ca(2+) inflow associates with lesser hypoxia-induced damage, 2) preconditioning affects basal mitochondrial metabolism and accelerates activation of hypoxia-reactive and potentially protective factors, 3) results indicate that preconditioning by K(+)-ATP-channel openers has therapeutic potential for islet transplantations.