Development of diabetes mellitus in aging transgenic mice following suppression of pancreatic homeoprotein IDX-1

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Monogenic forms of diabetes can result from mutations in genes encoding transcription factors. Mutations in the homeodomain transcription factor IDX-1, a critical regulator of pancreas development and insulin gene transcription, confer a strong predisposition to the development of diabetes mellitus in humans. To investigate the role of IDX-1 expression in the pathogenesis of diabetes, we developed a model for the inducible impairment of IDX-1 expression in pancreatic β cells in vivo by engineering an antisense ribozyme specific for mouse IDX-1 mRNA under control of the reverse tetracycline transactivator (rtTA). Doxycycline-induced impairment of IDX-1 expression reduced activation of the Insulin promoter but activated the Idx-1 promoter, suggesting that pancreatic β cells regulate IDX-1 transcription to maintain IDX-1 levels within a narrow range. In transgenic mice that express both rtTA and the antisense ribozyme construct, impaired IDX-1 expression elevated glycated hemoglobin levels, diminished glucose tolerance, and decreased insulin/glucose ratios. Metabolic phenotypes induced by IDX-1 deficiency were observed predominantly in male mice over 18 months of age, suggesting that cellular mechanisms to protect IDX-1 levels in pancreatic β cells decline with aging. We propose that even in the absence of Idx-1 gene mutations, pathophysiological processes that decrease IDX-1 levels are likely to impair glucose tolerance. Therapeutic strategies to attain normal glucose homeostasis by restoring normal IDX-1 levels may be of particular importance for older individuals with diabetes mellitus.

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