BACE2 (β-site APP-cleaving enzyme 2) is a protease expressed in the brain, but also in the pancreas, where it seems to play a physiological role. Amyloidogenic diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes (T2D), share the accumulation of abnormally folded and insoluble proteins that interfere with cell function. In T2D, islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) deposits have been shown to be a pathogenic key feature of the disease. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of BACE2 modulation on β-cell alterations in a mouse model of T2D induced by IAPP overexpression. Heterozygous mice carrying the human transcript of IAPP (hIAPP-Tg) were used as a model to study the deleterious effects of IAPP upon β-cell function. These animals showed glucose intolerance and impaired insulin secretion. When crossed with BACE2-deficient mice, the animals presented a significant improvement in glucose tolerance accompanied with an enhanced insulin secretion, as compared to hIAPP-Tg mice. BACE2 deficiency also partially reverted gene expression changes observed in islets from hIAPP-Tg mice, including a set of genes related to inflammation. Moreover, homozygous hIAPP mice presented a severe hyperglycemia and a high lethality rate from 8 weeks onwards due to a massive destruction of β-cell mass. This process was significantly reduced when crossed with the BACE2-KO model, improving the survival rate of the animals. Altogether, the absence of BACE2 ameliorates glucose tolerance defects induced by IAPP overexpression in the β-cell and promotes β-cell survival. Thus, targeting BACE2 may represent a promising therapeutic strategy to improve β-cell function in T2D.
Keywords: BACE activity; Glucose tolerance; Islet inflammation; Proliferation; Survival; Type 2 diabetes.