Insulin expression is primarily restricted to the pancreatic β cells, which are physically or functionally depleted in diabetes. Identifying targetable pathways repressing insulin in non-β cells, particularly in the developmentally related glucagon-secreting α cells, is an important aim of regenerative medicine. Here, we perform an RNA interference screen in a murine α cell line to identify silencers of insulin expression. We discover that knockdown of the splicing factor Smndc1 triggers a global repression of α cell gene-expression programs in favor of increased β cell markers. Mechanistically, Smndc1 knockdown upregulates the β cell transcription factor Pdx1 by modulating the activities of the BAF and Atrx chromatin remodeling complexes. SMNDC1's repressive role is conserved in human pancreatic islets, its loss triggering enhanced insulin secretion and PDX1 expression. Our study identifies Smndc1 as a key factor connecting splicing and chromatin remodeling to the control of insulin expression in human and mouse islet cells.
Keywords: CP: Metabolism; CP: Molecular biology; RNAi screen; SMNDC1; alpha cells; beta cells; chromatin remodelers; insulin transcription; pancreatic islets; splicing.
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