MiR-132 controls pancreatic beta cell proliferation and survival through Pten/Akt/Foxo3 signaling

Hassan Mziaut, Georg Henniger, Katharina Ganss, Sebastian Hempel, Steffen Wolk, Johanna McChord, Kamal Chowdhury, Philippe Ravassard, Klaus-Peter Knoch, Christian Krautz, Jürgen Weitz, Robert Grützmann, Christian Pilarsky, Michele Solimena, Stephan Kersting

The miRNA miR-132 plays a key role in beta cell function. However, in pancreatic islets, the downstream targets of miR-132 remain unknown and its involvement in beta cell regeneration in vivo has not been investigated. Mziaut and colleagues have found that miR-132 is a critical factor for control of beta cell replication after partial pancreatectomy. Targeted therapies for the expansion of beta cell mass in diabetes are actively sought, and in this context, miR-132 appears to be a worthy candidate.

Objective: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play an integral role in maintaining beta cell function and identity. Deciphering their targets and precise role, however, remains challenging. In this study, we aimed to identify miRNAs and their downstream targets involved in the regeneration of islet beta cells following partial pancreatectomy in mice.

Methods: RNA from laser capture microdissected (LCM) islets of partially pancreatectomized and sham-operated mice were profiled with microarrays to identify putative miRNAs implicated in beta cell regeneration. Altered expression of the selected miRNAs, including miR-132, was verified by RT-PCR. Potential targets of miR-132 were selected through bioinformatic data mining. Predicted miR-132 targets were validated for their changed RNA, protein expression levels, and signaling upon miR-132 knockdown and/or overexpression in mouse MIN6 and human EndoC-βH1 insulinoma cells. The ability of miR-132 to foster beta cell proliferation in vivo was further assessed in pancreatectomized miR-132−/− and control mice.

Results: Partial pancreatectomy significantly increased the number of BrdU+/insulin+ islet cells. Microarray profiling revealed that 14 miRNAs, including miR-132 and -141, were significantly upregulated in the LCM islets of the partially pancreatectomized mice compared to the LCM islets of the control mice. In the same comparison, miR-760 was the only downregulated miRNA. The changed expression of these miRNAs in the islets of the partially pancreatectomized mice was confirmed by RT-PCR only in the case of miR-132 and -141. Based on previous knowledge of its function, we focused our attention on miR-132. Downregulation of miR-132 reduced the proliferation of MIN6 cells while enhancing the levels of pro-apoptotic cleaved caspase-9. The opposite was observed in miR-132 overexpressing MIN6 cells. Microarray profiling, RT-PCR, and immunoblotting of the latter cells demonstrated their downregulated expression of Pten with concomitant increased levels of pro-proliferative factors phospho-Akt and phospho-Creb and inactivation of pro-apoptotic Foxo3a via its phosphorylation. Downregulation of Pten was further confirmed in the LCM islets of pancreatectomized mice compared to the sham-operated mice. Moreover, overexpression of miR-132 correlated with increased proliferation of EndoC-βH1 cells. The regeneration of beta cells following partial pancreatectomy was lower in the miR-132/212−/− mice than the control littermates.

Conclusions: This study provides compelling evidence about the critical role of miR-132 for the regeneration of mouse islet beta cells through the downregulation of its target Pten. Hence, the miR-132/Pten/Akt/Foxo3 signaling pathway may represent a suitable target to enhance beta cell mass.