Lipid Droplets' Role in the Regulation of β-Cell Function and β-Cell Demise in Type 2 Diabetes

Endocrinology. 2022 Mar 1;163(3):bqac007. doi: 10.1210/endocr/bqac007.


During development of type 2 diabetes (T2D), excessive nutritional load is thought to expose pancreatic islets to toxic effects of lipids and reduce β-cell function and mass. However, lipids also play a positive role in cellular metabolism and function. Thus, proper trafficking of lipids is critical for β cells to maximize the beneficial effects of these molecules while preventing their toxic effects. Lipid droplets (LDs) are organelles that play an important role in the storage and trafficking of lipids. In this review, we summarize the discovery of LDs in pancreatic β cells, LD lifecycle, and the effect of LD catabolism on β-cell insulin secretion. We discuss factors affecting LD formation such as age, cell type, species, and nutrient availability. We then outline published studies targeting critical LD regulators, primarily in rat and human β-cell models, to understand the molecular effect of LD formation and degradation on β-cell function and health. Furthermore, based on the abnormal LD accumulation observed in human T2D islets, we discuss the possible role of LDs during the development of β-cell failure in T2D. Current knowledge indicates that proper formation and clearance of LDs are critical to normal insulin secretion, endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis, and mitochondrial integrity in β cells. However, it remains unclear whether LDs positively or negatively affect human β-cell demise in T2D. Thus, we discuss possible research directions to address the knowledge gap regarding the role of LDs in β-cell failure.

Keywords: aging; endoplasmic reticulum stress; human cells; lipolysis; mitochondria; perilipin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress
  • Humans
  • Insulin Secretion / physiology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Lipid Droplets / physiology*
  • Perilipin-2 / physiology
  • Perilipin-5 / physiology
  • Rats


  • Perilipin-2
  • Perilipin-5