The spatial architecture of the islets of Langerhans is hypothesized to facilitate synchronized insulin secretion among β cells, yet testing this in vivo in the intact pancreas is challenging. Robo βKO mice, in which the genes Robo1 and Robo2 are deleted selectively in β cells, provide a unique model of altered islet spatial architecture without loss of β cell differentiation or islet damage from diabetes. Combining Robo βKO mice with intravital microscopy, we show here that Robo βKO islets have reduced synchronized intra-islet Ca2+ oscillations among β cells in vivo. We provide evidence that this loss is not due to a β cell-intrinsic function of Robo, mis-expression or mis-localization of Cx36 gap junctions, or changes in islet vascularization or innervation, suggesting that the islet architecture itself is required for synchronized Ca2+ oscillations. These results have implications for understanding structure-function relationships in the islets during progression to diabetes as well as engineering islets from stem cells.
Keywords: beta cells; cell biology; developmental biology; intravital microscopy; islet architecture; islets of Langerhans; mouse; robo receptors; synchronous insulin secretion.
© 2021, Adams et al.