Understanding distinct gene expression patterns of normal adult and developing fetal human pancreatic α- and β-cells is crucial for developing stem cell therapies, islet regeneration strategies, and therapies designed to increase β-cell function in patients with diabetes (type 1 or 2). Toward that end, we have developed methods to highly purify α-, β-, and δ-cells from human fetal and adult pancreata by intracellular staining for the cell-specific hormone content, sorting the subpopulations by flow cytometry, and, using next-generation RNA sequencing, we report the detailed transcriptomes of fetal and adult α- and β-cells. We observed that human islet composition was not influenced by age, sex, or BMI, and transcripts for inflammatory gene products were noted in fetal β-cells. In addition, within highly purified adult glucagon-expressing α-cells, we observed surprisingly high insulin mRNA expression, but not insulin protein expression. This transcriptome analysis from highly purified islet α- and β-cell subsets from fetal and adult pancreata offers clear implications for strategies that seek to increase insulin expression in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
© 2015 by the American Diabetes Association. Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered.