PloS one

Insulin production hampered by intermittent hypoxia via impaired zinc homeostasis.

PMID 24587273


Without zinc, pancreatic beta cells cannot either assemble insulin molecules or precipitate insulin crystals; thus, a lack of zinc concentration in the beta cells would result in a decreased insulin production. ZIP8 is one of the zinc uptake transporters involved in zinc influx into the cytosol of beta cells. Thus, if ZIP8 is down-regulated, a decreased insulin production would result. We assumed that intermittent hypoxic exposure to the beta cells may result in a decreased production of insulin due to a lack of zinc. To test this hypothesis we harvested pancreatic islets from the rats conditioned under intermittent hypoxia (IH) (fluctuating between 20.5% and 10% every 4 min for 1 h) and compared the results with those from control animals and islets. We also compared their insulin and glucose homeostasis using glucose tolerance tests (GTT) after 3 weeks. GTT results show a significant delay (P<0.05) in recovery of the blood glucose level in IH treated pups. ZIP8 expression in the beta cell membrane was down-regulated. The zinc concentration in the cell as well as insulin production was significantly decreased in the islets harvested from IH animals. However, mRNA for insulin and C-peptide/insulin protein levels in the total cell lysates remained the same as those of controls. When we treated the beta cells using siRNA mediated ZIP8, we observed the commensurate results from the IH-treated islets. We conclude that a transient IH exposure could knockdown ZIP8 transporters at mRNA as well as protein levels in the beta cells, which would decrease the level of blood insulin. However, the transcriptional activity of insulin remains the same. We conclude that the precipitation process of insulin crystal may be disturbed by a lack of zinc in the cytosol that is modulated by mainly ZIP8 after IH exposure.