Distinct gene expression pathways in islets from individuals with short- and long-duration type 1 diabetes

Diabetes Obes Metab. 2018 Aug;20(8):1859-1867. doi: 10.1111/dom.13298. Epub 2018 Apr 16.


Aims: Our current understanding of the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes (T1D) arose, in large part, from studies using the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse model. In the present study, we chose a human-focused method to investigate T1D disease mechanisms and potential targets for therapeutic intervention by directly analysing human donor pancreatic islets from individuals with T1D.

Materials and methods: We obtained islets from a young individual with T1D for 3 years and from an older individual with T1D for 27 years and performed unbiased functional genomic analysis by high-depth RNA sequencing; the T1D islets were compared with islets isolated from 3 non-diabetic donors.

Results: The islets procured from these T1D donors represent a unique opportunity to identify gene expression changes in islets after significantly different disease duration. Data analysis identified several inflammatory pathways up-regulated in short-duration disease, which notably included many components of innate immunity. As proof of concept for translation, one of the pathways, governed by IL-23(p19), was selected for further study in NOD mice because of ongoing human trials of biologics against this target for different indications. A mouse monoclonal antibody directed against IL-23(p19) when administered to NOD mice resulted in a significant reduction in incidence of diabetes.

Conclusion: While the sample size for this study is small, our data demonstrate that the direct analysis of human islets provides a greater understanding of human disease. These data, together with the analysis of an expanded cohort to be obtained by future collaborative efforts, might result in the identification of promising novel targets for translation into effective therapeutic interventions for human T1D, with the added benefit of repurposing known biologicals for use in different indications.

Keywords: IL23; IL23/p19; RNA-sequencing; T1D; functional genomics; human islets; inflammatory pathways; short-duration T1D; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Cadaver
  • Child
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / prevention & control
  • Disease Progression
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interleukin-23 Subunit p19 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukin-23 Subunit p19 / genetics
  • Interleukin-23 Subunit p19 / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Tissue Donors


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Il23a protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-23 Subunit p19