MicroRNAs as stress regulators in pancreatic beta cells and diabetes

Mol Metab. 2017 Jul 18;6(9):1010-1023. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2017.06.020. eCollection 2017 Sep.


Background: MicroRNAs have emerged as important regulatory non-coding RNAs that tune cellular responses to physiological perturbations and disease conditions. An increasing body of literature underlines the important roles of miRNA function in pancreatic β-cells in response to metabolic, genetic and inflammatory stress. Lessons from genetic loss- and gain-of-function studies have implicated several highly expressed and evolutionary conserved miRNAs in stress signal modulation, resolution and buffering, thereby forming stabilizing miRNA networks that preserve β-cell differentiation, function, proliferation and cell survival.

Scope of review: This review will summarize our current knowledge of how biologically relevant miRNAs regulate stress responses in pancreatic β-cells, discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with using secreted miRNAs as biomarkers and forecast how mechanistic knowledge of miRNA function can be exploited in developing miRNA-based therapeutics.

Major conclusions: miRNAs play important roles in the function, differentiation, proliferation, and survival of pancreatic β-cells. Many miRNA families that are regulated by metabolic, genetic, and inflammatory stressors have been found to coordinate the adaptive responses of β-cells in vivo in conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Keywords: Diabetes; Insulin secretion; Pancreatic β-cells; miRNAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Secretion / genetics
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs

Grants and funding