Evidence for a Role of the Ubiquitin-Proteasome Pathway in Pancreatic Islets

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The ubiquitin-proteasome pathway is crucial for protein turnover. Part of the pathway involves deubiquitination, which is carried out by cystein proteases known as ubiquitin COOH-terminal hydrolases. The isoform Uch-L1 was found to be present in large amounts in rat islets by immunostaining, Western blot analysis, and RT-PCR. Culturing islets in high glucose concentrations (16.7 mmol/l) for 24 h led to decreased gene expression. Exposure to chronic hyperglycemia following 90% partial pancreatectomy also led to reduced Uch-L1 expression. Expression of other members of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway studied after culturing islets at high glucose concentrations revealed little change except for modest declines in parkin, human ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme 5 (UbcH5), and β-TRCP (transducin repeat–containing protein). With the pancreatectomy model, expression of polyubiquitin-B and c-Cbl were increased and E6-associated protein was reduced. Further insight about the proteasome pathway was obtained with the proteasome inhibitor lactacystin, which in short-term 2-h experiments enhanced glucose-induced insulin secretion. An important role for the ubiquitin-proteasome pathways in β-cells is suggested by the findings that changes in glucose concentration influence expression of genes in the pathway and that blockade of the proteasome degradation machinery enhances glucose-stimulated insulin secretion.

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