Pancreatic islets respond to metabolic and inflammatory stress by producing hormones and other factors that induce adaptive cellular and systemic responses. Here we show that intracellular Ca2+ ([Ca2+]i) and ROS signals generated by high glucose and cytokine-induced ER stress activate calcineurin (CN)/NFATc2 and PI3K/AKT to maintain β-cell identity and function. This was attributed in part by direct induction of the endocrine differentiation gene RFX6 and suppression of several β-cell "disallowed" genes, including MCT1. CN/NFATc2 targeted p300 and HDAC1 to RFX6 and MCT1 promoters to induce and suppress gene transcription, respectively. In contrast, prolonged exposure to stress, hyperstimulated [Ca2+]i, or perturbation of CN/NFATc2 resulted in downregulation of RFX6 and induction of MCT1. These findings reveal that CN/NFATc2 and PI3K/AKT maintain β-cell function during acute stress, but β-cells dedifferentiate to a dysfunctional state upon loss or exhaustion of Ca2+/CN/NFATc2 signaling. They further demonstrate the utility of targeting CN/NFATc2 to restore β-cell function.
Keywords: Cell biology; Diabetology; Endocrinology; Molecular biology; Molecular interaction.
© 2022 The Author(s).