Biosynthesis of insulin - critical to metabolic homeostasis - begins with folding of the proinsulin precursor, including formation of three evolutionarily conserved intramolecular disulfide bonds. Remarkably, normal pancreatic islets contain a subset of proinsulin molecules bearing at least one free cysteine thiol. In human (or rodent) islets with a perturbed endoplasmic reticulum folding environment, non-native proinsulin enters intermolecular disulfide-linked complexes. In genetically obese mice with otherwise wild-type islets, disulfide-linked complexes of proinsulin are more abundant, and leptin receptor-deficient mice, the further increase of such complexes tracks with the onset of islet insulin deficiency and diabetes. Proinsulin-Cys(B19) and Cys(A20) are necessary and sufficient for the formation of proinsulin disulfide-linked complexes; indeed, proinsulin Cys(B19)-Cys(B19) covalent homodimers resist reductive dissociation, highlighting a structural basis for aberrant proinsulin complex formation. We conclude that increased proinsulin misfolding via disulfide-linked complexes is an early event associated with prediabetes that worsens with ß-cell dysfunction in type two diabetes.
Keywords: GRP78; cell biology; disulfide bonds; endoplasmic reticulum; mouse; prediabetes; protein trafficking.
© 2019, Arunagiri et al.