Functional and morphological modifications induced in rat islets by pentamidine and other diamidines in vitro.

PMID 3899820


The antiprotozoal drug pentamidine can be toxic to islet cells in vivo and in vitro. Rat islets were exposed to pentamidine (mesylate and isethionate salts) and six other structurally related diamidines. The beta-cell response to arginine + theophylline was suppressed by pentamidine (10(-2) mmol/l) while the glucagon and somatostatin secretions persisted. All diamidines tested suppressed the beta-cell function, with a log-dose-response proportionality, the mesylate compound being more potent than pentamidine isethionate, and the lipophilic analogs more than the hydrosoluble diamidines. Electron microscopy revealed distinct morphological alterations in islets exposed to pentamidine, the intensity of these changes being dose-and time-dependent, and the beta cells more severely damaged than the non-beta cells. 51Cr-labelled islet cells and RIN 5 F cells consistently appeared more sensitive to pentamidine cytotoxicity than rat fibroblasts, myeloma cells and hepatocytes. The pentamidine-induced suppression of beta-cell function was not, in conditions tested, affected by the presence of nicotinamide and the hexose concentration in the medium. The kinetics of islet damage were slower than those of streptozotocin and alloxan-induced islet damage. The present study confirms that pentamidine is selectively toxic to islet beta cells, with some features distinct from the alloxan and streptozotocin toxicities to these cells. The mechanism of this process and its precipitating factors in vivo need clarification.