miRNAs are a class of small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease characterized by insulitis (islets inflammation) and pancreatic beta cell destruction. The pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 1 beta (IL1B) and interferon gamma (IFNG) are released during insulitis and trigger endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and expression of pro-apoptotic members of the BCL2 protein family in beta cells, thus contributing to their death. The nature of miRNAs that regulate ER stress and beta cell apoptosis remains to be elucidated. We have performed a global miRNA expression profile on cytokine-treated human islets and observed a marked downregulation of miR-211-5p. By real-time PCR and Western blot analysis, we confirmed cytokine-induced changes in the expression of miR-211-5p and the closely related miR-204-5p and downstream ER stress related genes in human beta cells. Blocking of endogenous miRNA-211-5p and miR-204-5p by the same inhibitor (it is not possible to block separately these two miRs) increased human beta cell apoptosis, as measured by Hoechst/propidium Iodide staining and by determination of cleaved caspase-3 activation. Interestingly, miRs-211-5p and 204-5p regulate the expression of several ER stress markers downstream of PERK, particularly the pro-apoptotic protein DDIT3 (also known as CHOP). Blocking CHOP expression by a specific siRNA partially prevented the increased apoptosis observed following miR-211-5p/miR-204-5p inhibition. These observations identify a novel crosstalk between miRNAs, ER stress and beta cell apoptosis in early type 1 diabetes.
Keywords: apoptosis; cytokines; endoplasmic reticulum stress; miRNAs; pancreatic beta cells; type 1 diabetes.