BET Proteins Are Required for Transcriptional Activation of the Senescent Islet Cell Secretome in Type 1 Diabetes

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 26;20(19):4776. doi: 10.3390/ijms20194776.


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) results from the progressive loss of pancreatic beta cells as a result of autoimmune destruction. We recently reported that during the natural history of T1D in humans and the female nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse model, beta cells acquire a senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) that is a major driver of disease onset and progression, but the mechanisms that activate SASP in beta cells were not explored. Here, we show that the SASP in islet cells is transcriptionally controlled by Bromodomain ExtraTerminal (BET) proteins, including Bromodomain containing protein 4 (BRD4). A chromatin analysis of key beta cell SASP genes in NOD islets revealed binding of BRD4 at active regulatory regions. BET protein inhibition in NOD islets diminished not only the transcriptional activation and secretion of SASP factors, but also the non-cell autonomous activity. BET protein inhibition also decreased the extent of SASP induction in human islets exposed to DNA damage. The BET protein inhibitor iBET-762 prevented diabetes in NOD mice and also attenuated SASP in islet cells in vivo. Taken together, our findings support a crucial role for BET proteins in the activation of the SASP transcriptional program in islet cells. These studies suggest avenues for preventing T1D by transcriptional inhibition of SASP.

Keywords: BET proteins; beta cells; senescence and SASP; type 1 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Paracrine Communication
  • Protein Binding
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • BRD4 protein, human
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Transcription Factors