Nkx6.1 regulates islet β-cell proliferation via Nr4a1 and Nr4a3 nuclear receptors.
Loss of functional β-cell mass is a hallmark of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and methods for restoring these cells are needed. We have previously reported that overexpression of the homeodomain transcription factor NK6 homeobox 1 (Nkx6.1) in rat pancreatic islets induces β-cell proliferation and enhances glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, but the pathway by which Nkx6.1 activates β-cell expansion has not been defined. Here, we demonstrate that Nkx6.1 induces expression of the nuclear receptor subfamily 4, group A, members 1 and 3 (Nr4a1 and Nr4a3) orphan nuclear receptors, and that these factors are both necessary and sufficient for Nkx6.1-mediated β-cell proliferation. Consistent with this finding, global knockout of Nr4a1 results in a decrease in β-cell area in neonatal and young mice. Overexpression of Nkx6.1 and the Nr4a receptors results in increased expression of key cell cycle inducers E2F transcription factor 1 and cyclin E1. Furthermore, Nkx6.1 and Nr4a receptors induce components of the anaphase-promoting complex, including ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme E2C, resulting in degradation of the cell cycle inhibitor p21. These studies identify a unique bipartite pathway for activation of β-cell proliferation, suggesting several unique targets for expansion of functional β-cell mass.
Tessem, JS; Moss, LG; Chao, LC; Arlotto, M; Lu, D; Jensen, MV; Stephens, SB; Tontonoz, P; Hohmeier, HE; Newgard, CB
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