The species origin of the cellular microenvironment influences markers of beta cell fate and function in EndoC-βH1 cells
Interaction between islet cell subtypes and the extracellular matrix influences beta-cell function in mammals. The tissue architecture of rodent islets is very different to that of human islets; cell-to-cell communication and interaction with the extracellular matrix may vary between species. In this work, we have compared the responses of the human EndoC-βH1 cell line to non-human and human-derived growth matrices in terms of growth morphology, gene expression and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). EndoC-βH1 cells demonstrated a greater tendency to form cell clusters when cultured in a human microenvironment and exhibited reduced alpha cell markers at the mRNA level; mean expression difference − 0.23 and − 0.51; p = 0.009 and 0.002 for the Aristaless-related homeobox (ARX) and Glucagon (GCG) genes respectively. No differences were noted in the protein expression of mature beta cell markers such as Pdx1 and NeuroD1 were noted in EndoC-βH1 cells grown in a human microenvironment but cells were however more sensitive to glucose (4.3-fold increase in insulin secretion following glucose challenge compared with a 1.9-fold increase in cells grown in a non-human microenvironment; p = 0.0003). Our data suggests that the tissue origin of the cellular microenvironment has effects on the function of EndoC-βH1 cells in vitro, and the use of a more human-like culture microenvironment may bring benefits in terms of increased physiological relevance.