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.