DPP-4 is expressed in human pancreatic beta cells and its direct inhibition improves beta cell function and survival in type 2 diabetes

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2018 Sep 15;473:186-193. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2018.01.019. Epub 2018 Feb 1.


It has been reported that the incretin system, including regulated GLP-1 secretion and locally expressed DPP-4, is present in pancreatic islets. In this study we comprehensively evaluated the expression and role of DPP-4 in islet alpha and beta cells from non-diabetic (ND) and type 2 diabetic (T2D) individuals, including the effects of its inhibition on beta cell function and survival. Isolated islets were prepared from 25 ND and 18 T2D organ donors; studies were also performed with the human insulin-producing EndoC-βH1 cells. Morphological (including confocal microscopy), ultrastructural (electron microscopy, EM), functional (glucose-stimulated insulin secretion), survival (EM and nuclear dyes) and molecular (RNAseq, qPCR and western blot) studies were performed under several different experimental conditions. DPP-4 co-localized with glucagon and was also expressed in human islet insulin-containing cells. Furthermore, DPP-4 was expressed in EndoC-βH1 cells. The proportions of DPP-4 positive alpha and beta cells and DPP-4 gene expression were significantly lower in T2D islets. A DPP-4 inhibitor protected ND human beta cells and EndoC-βH1 cells against cytokine-induced toxicity, which was at least in part independent from GLP1 and associated with reduced NFKB1 expression. Finally, DPP-4 inhibition augmented glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, reduced apoptosis and improved ultrastructure in T2D beta cells. These results demonstrate the presence of DPP-4 in human islet alpha and beta cells, with reduced expression in T2D islets, and show that DPP-4 inhibition has beneficial effects on human ND and T2D beta cells. This suggests that DPP-4, besides playing a role in incretin effects, directly affects beta cell function and survival.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Beta cells; Cytokines; DPP-4; MK-0626; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cytokines / toxicity
  • Cytoprotection / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / enzymology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology*
  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4 / metabolism*
  • Dipeptidyl-Peptidase IV Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Secretion / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / enzymology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Cytokines
  • Dipeptidyl-Peptidase IV Inhibitors
  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4