Could microRNAs contribute to the maintenance of β cell identity?

Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Jun;25(6):285-92. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2014.01.003. Epub 2014 Mar 18.


Normal physiology depends on defined functional output of differentiated cells. However, differentiated cells are often surprisingly fragile. As an example, phenotypic collapse and dedifferentiation of β cells were recently discovered in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (T2D). These discoveries necessitate the investigation of mechanisms that function to maintain robust cell type identity. microRNAs (miRNAs), which are small non-coding RNAs, are known to impart robustness to development. miRNAs are interlaced within networks, that include also transcriptional and epigenetic regulators, for continuous control of lineage-specific gene expression. In this Opinion article, we provide a framework for conceptualizing how miRNAs might participate in adult β cell identity and suggest that miRNAs may function as important genetic components in metabolic disorders, including diabetes.

Keywords: cellular identity; dedifferentiation; diabetes; endocrine pancreas; miRNAs; β cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / pathology
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*


  • MicroRNAs