Transient NADPH oxidase 2-dependent H2O2 production drives early palmitate-induced lipotoxicity in pancreatic islets

Free Radic Biol Med. 2021 Jan;162:1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2020.11.023. Epub 2020 Nov 27.


Modern lifestyles, including lack of physical activity and poor nutritional habits, are driving the rapidly increasing prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Increased levels of free fatty acids (FFAs), particularly saturated FFAs, in obese individuals have been linked to pancreatic β-cell failure. This process, termed lipotoxicity, involves activation of several stress responses, including ER stress and oxidative stress. However, the molecular underpinnings and causal relationships between the disparate stress responses remain unclear. Here we employed transgenic mice, expressing a genetically-encoded cytosolic H2O2 sensor, roGFP2-Orp1, to monitor dynamic changes in H2O2 levels in pancreatic islets in response to chronic palmitate exposure. We identified a transient increase in H2O2 levels from 4 to 8 h after palmitate addition, which was mirrored by a concomitant decrease in cellular NAD(P)H levels. Intriguingly, islets isolated from NOX2 knock-out mice displayed no H2O2 transient upon chronic palmitate treatment. Furthermore, NOX2 knockout rescued palmitate-dependent impairment of insulin secretion, calcium homeostasis and viability. Chemical inhibition of NOX activity protected islets from palmitate-induced impairment in insulin secretion, however had no detectable impact upon the induction of ER stress. In summary, our results reveal that transient NOX2-dependent H2O2 production is a likely cause of early palmitate-dependent lipotoxic effects.

Keywords: ER stress; Lipotoxicity; NADPH oxidase; Palmitate; β-Cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells*
  • Islets of Langerhans*
  • Mice
  • NADPH Oxidase 2 / genetics
  • Palmitates / toxicity


  • Insulin
  • Palmitates
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • NADPH Oxidase 2