Cytokines, nitric oxide and insulin secreting cells

Growth Regul. 1994 Dec;4(4):173-80.


Cytokines are a group of regulatory and immunomodulatory proteins involved in a number of physiological processes. Various disease states are believed to involve alteration of normal cytokine activity, including insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, an autoimmune disease in which insulin secreting beta cells within pancreatic islets of Langerhans are selectively destroyed. Glucose-induced insulin secretion is inhibited by the cytokines interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF) when combined with IL-1 beta in cultured rat islets, by IL-1 beta, TNF and interferon gamma in mouse islets, and by combined treatment of IL-1 beta, TNF and interferon gamma in human islets. Continued cytokine treatment in many cases leads to destruction of some, if not all, islet cells. A key factor in the inhibitory effect of IL-1 beta and TNF in rat islets is the generation of nitric oxide which inactivates enzymes such as aconitase and ribonucleotide reductase by formation of iron-nitrosyl complexes. This in turn may lead to reduced oxidation of glucose and synthesis of ATP and DNA respectively. The causes of cytokine-induced beta cell death are less well defined, but important factors may be nitric oxide-mediated DNA damage, depletion of NAD levels and toxic effects of oxygen free radicals and eicosanoids generated in addition to nitric oxide. Potentially important defence and repair responses induced by IL-1 beta treatment of rat islets are formation of heat shock protein, haem oxygenase, and superoxide dismutase. Other protective responses may be induction of cytokines and cytokine receptor antagonists.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*


  • Cytokines
  • Insulin
  • Nitric Oxide