Purpose of review: Describing the diverse molecular mechanisms (particularly immunological) involved in the death of the pancreatic beta cell in type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Recent findings: Beta cell death is the final event in a series of mechanisms that, up to date, have not been entirely clarified; it represents the pathophysiological mechanism in the natural history of diabetes mellitus. These mechanisms are not limited to an apoptotic process only, which is characteristic of the immune-mediated insulitis in type 1 diabetes mellitus. They also include the action of proinflammatory cytokines, the production of reactive oxygen species, DNA fragmentation (typical of necroptosis in type 1 diabetic patients), excessive production of islet amyloid polypeptide with the consequent endoplasmic reticulum stress, disruption in autophagy mechanisms, and protein complex formation, such as the inflammasome, capable of increasing oxidative stress produced by mitochondrial damage.
Summary: Necroptosis, autophagy, and pyroptosis are molecular mechanisms that modulate the survival of the pancreatic beta cell, demonstrating the importance of the immune system in glucolipotoxicity processes and the potential role for immunometabolism as another component of what once known as the "ominous octet."