Alpha cells, the main source of IL-1β in human pancreas

J Autoimmun. 2017 Jul;81:68-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2017.03.006. Epub 2017 Mar 18.


Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) is known to trigger beta cell dysfunction in vitro and could potentially play a role during the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. However, several clinical trials attempting to block IL-1β function have had minimal success. We therefore re-investigated local expression of IL-1β in human diabetic and non-diabetic pancreata. We obtained pancreatic tissue sections from the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) including non-diabetic (n = 9), non-diabetic auto-antibody positive (AAb+, n = 5), type 1 diabetes (n = 6), and type 2 diabetes (n = 6) donors. Islets were systematically investigated for the presence of IL-1β mRNA by in situ hybridization and IL-1β protein by indirect immunofluorescence. We found that intra-islet IL-1β was produced at comparable level in both non-diabetic and diabetic donors. Interestingly, the main source for IL-1β was alpha cells but not beta cells. Our findings call into question the role of IL-1β in the diabetic pancreas as it has been proposed in previous literature. Additionally, our results regarding the localization of IL-1β should lead to further investigation into the role of IL-1β in the physiology of pancreatic alpha cells.

Keywords: Alpha cells; Interleukin-1β; Pancreas; Type 1 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Gene Expression
  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1beta / genetics
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism*
  • Pancreas / cytology*
  • Pancreas / metabolism*
  • Pancreas / pathology


  • Interleukin-1beta