Cadmium-mediated pancreatic islet transcriptome changes in mice and cultured mouse islets

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2021 Dec 15;433:115756. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2021.115756. Epub 2021 Oct 16.


Type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a multifactorial disease process that is characterized by insulin resistance and impairment of insulin-producing pancreatic islets. There is evidence that environmental exposure to cadmium contributes to the development of T2DM. The presence of cadmium in human islets from the general population and the uptake of cadmium in β-cells have been reported. To identify cadmium-mediated changes in gene expression and molecular regulatory networks in pancreatic islets, we performed next-generation RNA-Sequencing (RNA-Seq) in islets following either in vivo (1 mM CdCl2 in drinking water) or ex-vivo (0.5 μM CdCl2) exposure. Both exposure regiments resulted in islet cadmium concentrations that are comparable to those found in human islets from the general population. 6-week in vivo cadmium exposure upregulates the expression of five genes: Synj2, Gjb1, Rbpjl, Try5 and 5430419D17Rik. Rbpjl is a known regulator of ctrb, a gene associated with diabetes susceptibility. With 18-week in vivo cadmium exposure, we found more comprehensive changes in gene expression profile. Pathway enrichment analysis showed that these secondary changes were clustered to molecular mechanisms related to intracellular protein trafficking to the plasma membrane. In islet culture, cadmium ex vivo significantly induces the expression of Mt1, Sphk1, Nrcam, L3mbtl2, Rnf216 and Itpr1. Mt1 and Itpr1 are known to be involved in glucose homeostasis. Collectively, findings reported here revealed a complex cadmium-mediated effect on pancreatic islet gene expression at environmentally relevant cadmium exposure conditions, providing the basis for further studies into the pathophysiological processes arising from cadmium accumulation in pancreatic islets.

Keywords: Cadmium; Insulin-producing β-cells; Islet transcriptome; Pancreatic islets; Type II diabetes mellitus; mRNA-sequencing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Cadmium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Cadmium Chloride / blood
  • Cadmium Chloride / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • RNA-Seq
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • Transcriptome / drug effects*


  • Cadmium Chloride