Hyperuricemia causes pancreatic β-cell death and dysfunction through NF-κB signaling pathway

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 25;8(10):e78284. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078284. eCollection 2013.


Accumulating clinical evidence suggests that hyperuricemia is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. However, it is still unclear whether elevated levels of uric acid can cause direct injury of pancreatic β-cells. In this study, we examined the effects of uric acid on β-cell viability and function. Uric acid solution or normal saline was administered intraperitoneally to mice daily for 4 weeks. Uric acid-treated mice exhibited significantly impaired glucose tolerance and lower insulin levels in response to glucose challenge than did control mice. However, there were no significant differences in insulin sensitivity between the two groups. In comparison to the islets in control mice, the islets in the uric acid-treated mice were markedly smaller in size and contained less insulin. Treatment of β-cells in vitro with uric acid activated the NF-κB signaling pathway through IκBα phosphorylation, resulting in upregulated inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression and excessive nitric oxide (NO) production. Uric acid treatment also increased apoptosis and downregulated Bcl-2 expression in Min6 cells. In addition, a reduction in insulin secretion under glucose challenge was observed in the uric acid-treated mouse islets. These deleterious effects of uric acid on pancreatic β-cells were attenuated by benzbromarone, an inhibitor of uric acid transporters, NOS inhibitor L-NMMA, and Bay 11-7082, an NF-κB inhibitor. Further investigation indicated that uric acid suppressed levels of MafA protein through enhancing its degradation. Collectively, our data suggested that an elevated level of uric acid causes β-cell injury via the NF-κB-iNOS-NO signaling axis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Death / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Hyperuricemia / metabolism*
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Uric Acid / adverse effects*


  • Insulin
  • NF-kappa B
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Uric Acid
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Glucose

Grant support

Funding from the National Basic Research Program of China (2011CB504000, 973 Program) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81070656, 81171589). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.