Altered gene expression contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D); thus, the analysis of differentially expressed genes between diabetes-susceptible and diabetes-resistant mouse models is an important tool for the determination of candidate genes that participate in the pathology. Based on RNA-seq and array data comparing pancreatic gene expression of diabetes-prone New Zealand Obese (NZO) mice and diabetes-resistant B6.V-ob/ob (B6-ob/ob) mice, the gap junction protein beta 4 (Gjb4) was identified as a putative novel T2D candidate gene.
Gjb4 was overexpressed in primary islet cells derived from C57BL/6 (B6) mice and INS-1 cells via adenoviral-mediated infection. The proliferation rate of cells was assessed by BrdU incorporation, and insulin secretion was measured under low (2.8 mM) and high (20 mM) glucose concentration. INS-1 cell apoptosis rate was determined by Western blotting assessing cleaved caspase 3 levels.
Overexpression of Gjb4 in primary islet cells significantly inhibited the proliferation by 47%, reduced insulin secretion of primary islets (46%) and INS-1 cells (51%), and enhanced the rate of apoptosis by 63% in INS-1 cells. Moreover, an altered expression of the miR-341-3p contributes to the Gjb4 expression difference between diabetes-prone and diabetes-resistant mice.
The gap junction protein Gjb4 is highly expressed in islets of diabetes-prone NZO mice and may play a role in the development of T2D by altering islet cell function, inducing apoptosis and inhibiting proliferation.