Rb and p107 are required for alpha cell survival, beta cell cycle control and glucagon-like peptide-1 action

Erica P. Cai, etc
Diabetologia, 2014


Diabetes mellitus is characterised by beta cell loss and alpha cell expansion. Analogues of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) are used therapeutically to antagonise these processes; thus, we hypothesised that the related cell cycle regulators retinoblastoma protein (Rb) and p107 were involved in GLP-1 action.


We used small interfering RNA and adenoviruses to manipulate Rb and p107 expression in insulinoma and alpha-TC cell lines. In vivo we examined pancreas-specific Rb knockout, whole-body p107 knockout and Rb/p107 double-knockout mice.


Rb, but not p107, was downregulated in response to the GLP-1 analogue, exendin-4, in both alpha and beta cells. Intriguingly, this resulted in opposite outcomes of cell cycle arrest in alpha cells but proliferation in beta cells. Overexpression of Rb in alpha and beta cells abolished or attenuated the effects of exendin-4 supporting the important role of Rb in GLP-1 modulation of cell cycling. Similarly, in vivo, Rb, but not p107, deficiency was required for the beta cell proliferative response to exendin-4. Consistent with this finding, Rb, but not p107, was suppressed in islets from humans with diabetes, suggesting the importance of Rb regulation for the compensatory proliferation that occurs under insulin resistant conditions. Finally, while p107 alone did not have an essential role in islet homeostasis, when combined with Rb deletion, its absence potentiated apoptosis of both alpha and beta cells resulting in glucose intolerance and diminished islet mass with ageing.


We found a central role of Rb in the dual effects of GLP-1 in alpha and beta cells. Our findings highlight unique contributions of individual Rb family members to islet cell proliferation and survival.

Read more »

Univ Health Network