The type 2 diabetes-associated HMG20A gene is mandatory for islet beta cell functional maturity

Cell Death Dis. 2018 Feb 15;9(3):279. doi: 10.1038/s41419-018-0272-z.


HMG20A (also known as iBRAF) is a chromatin factor involved in neuronal differentiation and maturation. Recently small nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the HMG20A gene have been linked to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) yet neither expression nor function of this T2DM candidate gene in islets is known. Herein we demonstrate that HMG20A is expressed in both human and mouse islets and that levels are decreased in islets of T2DM donors as compared to islets from non-diabetic donors. In vitro studies in mouse and human islets demonstrated that glucose transiently increased HMG20A transcript levels, a result also observed in islets of gestating mice. In contrast, HMG20A expression was not altered in islets from diet-induced obese and pre-diabetic mice. The T2DM-associated rs7119 SNP, located in the 3' UTR of the HMG20A transcript reduced the luciferase activity of a reporter construct in the human beta 1.1E7 cell line. Depletion of Hmg20a in the rat INS-1E cell line resulted in decreased expression levels of its neuronal target gene NeuroD whereas Rest and Pax4 were increased. Chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed the interaction of HMG20A with the Pax4 gene promoter. Expression levels of Mafa, Glucokinase, and Insulin were also inhibited. Furthermore, glucose-induced insulin secretion was blunted in HMG20A-depleted islets. In summary, our data demonstrate that HMG20A expression in islet is essential for metabolism-insulin secretion coupling via the coordinated regulation of key islet-enriched genes such as NeuroD and Mafa and that depletion induces expression of genes such as Pax4 and Rest implicated in beta cell de-differentiation. More importantly we assign to the T2DM-linked rs7119 SNP the functional consequence of reducing HMG20A expression likely translating to impaired beta cell mature function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • High Mobility Group Proteins / genetics
  • High Mobility Group Proteins / metabolism*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / pathology
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Rats


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Blood Glucose
  • HMG20A protein, human
  • High Mobility Group Proteins
  • Hmg20a protein, mouse
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Lipids
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • PAX4 protein, human
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors
  • Pax4 protein, mouse
  • Neurogenic differentiation factor 1