Human EndoC-βH1 β-cells form pseudoislets with improved glucose sensitivity and enhanced GLP-1 signaling in the presence of islet-derived endothelial cells

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2018 May 1;314(5):E512-E521. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00272.2017. Epub 2018 Jan 16.


Three-dimensional (3D) pseudoislets (PIs) can be used for the study of insulin-producing β-cells in free-floating islet-like structures similar to that of primary islets. Previously, we demonstrated the ability of islet-derived endothelial cells (iECs) to induce PIs using murine insulinomas, where PI formation enhanced insulin production and glucose responsiveness. In this report, we examined the ability of iECs to spontaneously induce the formation of free-floating 3D PIs using the EndoC-βH1 human β-cell line murine MS1 iEC. Within 14 days, the coculturing of both cell types produced fully humanized EndoC-βH1 PIs with little to no contaminating murine iECs. The size and shape of these PIs were similar to primary human islets. iEC-induced PIs demonstrated reduced dysregulated insulin release under low glucose levels and higher insulin secretion in response to high glucose and exendin-4 [a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analog] compared with monolayer cells cultured alone. Interestingly, iEC-PIs were also better at glucose sensing in the presence of extendin-4 compared with PIs generated on a low-adhesion surface plate in the absence of iECs and showed an overall improvement in cell viability. iEC-induced PIs exhibited increased expression of key genes involved in glucose transport, glucose sensing, β-cell differentiation, and insulin processing, with a concomitant decrease in glucagon mRNA expression. The enhanced responsiveness to exendin-4 was associated with increased protein expression of GLP-1 receptor and phosphokinase A. This rapid coculture system provides an unlimited number of human PIs with improved insulin secretion and GLP-1 responsiveness for the study of β-cell biology.

Keywords: EndoC-βH1; MS1; endothelial cell; glucagon-like peptide-1; insulinoma; pseudoislet; β-cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques / methods
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / pharmacology
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Intolerance / metabolism
  • Glucose Intolerance / pathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Insulin
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Glucose