Background: Diabetes mellitus is a serious metabolic disease. Dysfunction and subsequent loss of the β-cells in the islets of Langerhans through apoptosis ultimately cause a life-threatening insulin deficiency. The underlying reason for the particular vulnerability of the β-cells is an extraordinary sensitivity to the toxicity of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS and RNS) due to its low antioxidative defense status.
Scope review: This review considers the different aspects of the chemistry and biology of the biologically most important reactive species and their chemico-biological interactions in the β-cell toxicity of proinflammatory cytokines in type 1 diabetes and of lipotoxicity in type 2 diabetes development.
Major conclusion: The weak antioxidative defense equipment in the different subcellular organelles makes the β-cells particularly vulnerable and prone to mitochondrial, peroxisomal and ER stress. Looking upon the enzyme deficiencies which are responsible for the low antioxidative defense status of the pancreatic β-cells it is the lack of enzymatic capacity for H2O2 inactivation at all major subcellular sites.
General significance: Diabetes is the most prevalent metabolic disorder with a steadily increasing incidence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes worldwide. The weak protection of the pancreatic β-cells against oxidative stress is a major reason for their particular vulnerability. Thus, careful protection of the β-cells is required for prevention of the disease.
Keywords: Cytokine toxicity; Cytoprotective enzymes; Diabetes; Glucolipotoxicity; Oxidative stress; Pancreatic β-cells; Reactive oxygen species.
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