Glucocorticoid induces human beta cell dysfunction by involving riborepressor GAS5 LincRNA

Jonathan L.S. Esguerra, Jones K. Ofori, Mototsugu Nagao, Yuki Shuto, Alexandros Karagiannopoulos, Joao Fadista, Hitoshi Sugihara, Leif Groop, Lena Eliasson

Glucocorticoid (GC) therapy may have metabolic side effects, one of which is diabetes mellitus. In GC signaling, the non-coding RNA growth arrest-specific 5 (GAS5) acts as a riborepressor by directly interacting with the glucocorticoid receptor in a dexamethasone-dependent manner. However, the role of GAS5 in human pancreatic beta cell function has not been previously addressed. Esguerra et al. demonstrate the involvement of GAS5 in GC-mediated beta cell dysfunction. Modulation of GAS5 in the human beta cell alleviated the GC-induced insulin secretion defect, demonstrating the potential of this non-coding RNA as a novel therapeutic target in countering GC-mediated beta cell dysfunction.

Objective: A widely recognized metabolic side effect of glucocorticoid (GC) therapy is steroid-induced diabetes mellitus (DM). However, studies on the molecular basis of GC-induced pancreatic beta cell dysfunction in human beta cells are lacking. The significance of non-coding RNAs in various cellular processes is emerging. In this study, we aimed to show the direct negative impact of GC on beta cell function and elucidate the role of riborepressor GAS5 lincRNA in the GC signaling pathway in human pancreatic beta cells.

Methods: Patients undergoing two weeks of high-dose prednisolone therapy were monitored for C-peptide levels. Human pancreatic islets and the human beta cell line EndoC-βH1 were incubated in pharmacological concentrations of dexamethasone. The GAS5 level was modulated using anti-sense LNA gapmeR or short oligonucleotides with GAS5 HREM (hormone response element motif). Immunoblotting and/or real-time PCR were used to assess changes in protein and RNA expression, respectively. Functional characterization included glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and apoptosis assays. Correlation analysis was performed on RNAseq data of human pancreatic islets.

Results: We found reduced C-peptide levels in patients undergoing high-dose GC therapy. Human islets and the human beta cell line EndoC-βH1 exposed to GC exhibited reduced insulin secretion and increased apoptosis. Concomitantly, reduced expression of important beta cell transcription factors, PDX1 and NKX6-1, as well as exocytotic protein SYT13 were observed. The expression of the glucocorticoid receptor was decreased, while that of serum and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase 1 (SGK1) was elevated. The expression of these genes was found to significantly correlate with GAS5 in human islet transcriptomics data. Increasing GAS5 levels using GAS5 HREM alleviated the inhibitory effects of dexamethasone on insulin secretion.

Conclusions: The direct adverse effect of glucocorticoid in human beta cell function is mediated via important beta cell proteins and components of the GC signaling pathway in an intricate interplay with GAS5 lincRNA, a potentially novel therapeutic target to counter GC-mediated beta cell dysfunction.