Aims/hypothesis: Inflammatory signals and increased prostaglandin synthesis play a role during the development of diabetes. The prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) receptor, GPR44/DP2, is highly expressed in human islets and activation of the pathway results in impaired insulin secretion. The role of GPR44 activation on islet function and survival rate during chronic hyperglycaemic conditions is not known. In this study, we investigate GPR44 inhibition by using a selective GPR44 antagonist (AZ8154) in human islets both in vitro and in vivo in diabetic mice transplanted with human islets.
Methods: Human islets were exposed to PGD2 or proinflammatory cytokines in vitro to investigate the effect of GPR44 inhibition on islet survival rate. In addition, the molecular mechanisms of GPR44 inhibition were investigated in human islets exposed to high concentrations of glucose (HG) and to IL-1β. For the in vivo part of the study, human islets were transplanted under the kidney capsule of immunodeficient diabetic mice and treated with 6, 60 or 100 mg/kg per day of a GPR44 antagonist starting from the transplantation day until day 4 (short-term study) or day 17 (long-term study) post transplantation. IVGTT was performed on mice at day 10 and day 15 post transplantation. After termination of the study, metabolic variables, circulating human proinflammatory cytokines, and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) were analysed in the grafted human islets.
Results: PGD2 or proinflammatory cytokines induced apoptosis in human islets whereas GPR44 inhibition reversed this effect. GPR44 inhibition antagonised the reduction in glucose-stimulated insulin secretion induced by HG and IL-1β in human islets. This was accompanied by activation of the Akt-glycogen synthase kinase 3β signalling pathway together with phosphorylation and inactivation of forkhead box O-1and upregulation of pancreatic and duodenal homeobox-1 and HGF. Administration of the GPR44 antagonist for up to 17 days to diabetic mice transplanted with a marginal number of human islets resulted in reduced fasting blood glucose and lower glucose excursions during IVGTT. Improved glucose regulation was supported by increased human C-peptide levels compared with the vehicle group at day 4 and throughout the treatment period. GPR44 inhibition reduced plasma levels of TNF-α and growth-regulated oncogene-α/chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 1 and increased the levels of HGF in human islets.
Conclusions/interpretation: Inhibition of GPR44 in human islets has the potential to improve islet function and survival rate under inflammatory and hyperglycaemic stress. This may have implications for better survival rate of islets following transplantation.
Keywords: DP2; GPR44; Human islets; Islet apoptosis; Islet survival rate; Prostaglandin D2.