Circulating Differentially Methylated Amylin DNA as a Biomarker of β-Cell Loss in Type 1 Diabetes

PLoS One. 2016 Apr 25;11(4):e0152662. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0152662. eCollection 2016.


In type 1 diabetes (T1D), β-cell loss is silent during disease progression. Methylation-sensitive quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) of β-cell-derived DNA in the blood can serve as a biomarker of β-cell death in T1D. Amylin is highly expressed by β-cells in the islet. Here we examined whether demethylated circulating free amylin DNA (cfDNA) may serve as a biomarker of β-cell death in T1D. β cells showed unique methylation patterns within the amylin coding region that were not observed with other tissues. The design and use of methylation-specific primers yielded a strong signal for demethylated amylin in purified DNA from murine islets when compared with other tissues. Similarly, methylation-specific primers detected high levels of demethylated amylin DNA in human islets and enriched human β-cells. In vivo testing of the primers revealed an increase in demethylated amylin cfDNA in sera of non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice during T1D progression and following the development of hyperglycemia. This increase in amylin cfDNA did not mirror the increase in insulin cfDNA, suggesting that amylin cfDNA may detect β-cell loss in serum samples where insulin cfDNA is undetected. Finally, purified cfDNA from recent onset T1D patients yielded a high signal for demethylated amylin cfDNA when compared with matched healthy controls. These findings support the use of demethylated amylin cfDNA for detection of β-cell-derived DNA. When utilized in conjunction with insulin, this latest assay provides a comprehensive multi-gene approach for the detection of β-cell loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Child
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Islet Amyloid Polypeptide / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice


  • Biomarkers
  • Islet Amyloid Polypeptide