High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) exert a series of potentially beneficial effects on many cell types including anti-atherogenic actions on the endothelium and macrophage foam cells. HDLs may also exert anti-diabetogenic functions on the beta cells of the endocrine pancreas, notably by potently inhibiting stress-induced cell death and enhancing glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. HDLs have also been found to stimulate insulin-dependent and insulin-independent glucose uptake into skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and liver. These experimental findings and the inverse association of HDL-cholesterol levels with the risk of diabetes development have generated the notion that appropriate HDL levels and functionality must be maintained in humans to diminish the risks of developing diabetes. In this article, we review our knowledge on the beneficial effects of HDLs in pancreatic beta cells and how these effects are mediated. We discuss the capacity of HDLs to modulate endoplasmic reticulum stress and how this affects beta-cell survival. We also point out the gaps in our understanding on the signalling properties of HDLs in beta cells. Hopefully, this review will foster the interest of scientists in working on beta cells and diabetes to better define the cellular pathways activated by HDLs in beta cells. Such knowledge will be of importance to design therapeutic tools to preserve the proper functioning of the insulin-secreting cells in our body.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Diabetes; ER stress; HDLs; Pancreatic beta cells; Protective signals; Signalling.
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