Pericytes contribute to the islet basement membranes to promote beta-cell gene expression

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 27;11(1):2378. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-81774-8.


β-Cells depend on the islet basement membrane (BM). While some islet BM components are produced by endothelial cells (ECs), the source of others remains unknown. Pancreatic pericytes directly support β-cells through mostly unidentified secreted factors. Thus, we hypothesized that pericytes regulate β-cells through the production of BM components. Here, we show that pericytes produce multiple components of the mouse pancreatic and islet interstitial and BM matrices. Several of the pericyte-produced ECM components were previously implicated in β-cell physiology, including collagen IV, laminins, proteoglycans, fibronectin, nidogen, and hyaluronan. Compared to ECs, pancreatic pericytes produce significantly higher levels of α2 and α4 laminin chains, which constitute the peri-islet and vascular BM. We further found that the pericytic laminin isoforms differentially regulate mouse β-cells. Whereas α2 laminins promoted islet cell clustering, they did not affect gene expression. In contrast, culturing on Laminin-421 induced the expression of β-cell genes, including Ins1, MafA, and Glut2, and significantly improved glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Thus, alongside ECs, pericytes are a significant source of the islet BM, which is essential for proper β-cell function.