Although type 1 diabetes (T1D) is primarily a disease of the pancreatic beta-cells, understanding of the disease-associated alterations in the whole pancreas could be important for the improved treatment or the prevention of the disease. We have characterized the whole-pancreas gene expression of patients with recently diagnosed T1D from the Diabetes Virus Detection (DiViD) study and non-diabetic controls. Furthermore, another parallel dataset of the whole pancreas and an additional dataset from the laser-captured pancreatic islets of the DiViD patients and non-diabetic organ donors were analyzed together with the original dataset to confirm the results and to get further insights into the potential disease-associated differences between the exocrine and the endocrine pancreas. First, higher expression of the core acinar cell genes, encoding for digestive enzymes, was detected in the whole pancreas of the DiViD patients when compared to non-diabetic controls. Second, In the pancreatic islets, upregulation of immune and inflammation related genes was observed in the DiViD patients when compared to non-diabetic controls, in line with earlier publications, while an opposite trend was observed for several immune and inflammation related genes at the whole pancreas tissue level. Third, strong downregulation of the regenerating gene family (REG) genes, linked to pancreatic islet growth and regeneration, was observed in the exocrine acinar cell dominated whole-pancreas data of the DiViD patients when compared with the non-diabetic controls. Fourth, analysis of unique features in the transcriptomes of each DiViD patient compared with the other DiViD patients, revealed elevated expression of central antiviral immune response genes in the whole-pancreas samples, but not in the pancreatic islets, of one DiViD patient. This difference in the extent of antiviral gene expression suggests different statuses of infection in the pancreas at the time of sampling between the DiViD patients, who were all enterovirus VP1+ in the islets by immunohistochemistry based on earlier studies. The observed features, indicating differences in the function, status and interplay between the exocrine and the endocrine pancreas of recent onset T1D patients, highlight the importance of studying both compartments for better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of T1D.
Keywords: DiViD; exocrine pancreas; gene expression; pancreas; pancreatic islet; transcriptomics; type 1 diabetes.
Copyright © 2022 Välikangas, Lietzén, Jaakkola, Krogvold, Eike, Kallionpää, Tuomela, Mathews, Gerling, Oikarinen, Hyöty, Dahl-Jorgensen, Elo and Lahesmaa.