Control of the Intracellular Redox State by Glucose Participates in the Insulin Secretion Mechanism


Production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) due to chronic exposure to glucose has been associated with impaired beta cell function and diabetes. However, physiologically, beta cells are well equipped to deal with episodic glucose loads, to which they respond with a fine tuned glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). In the present study, a systematic investigation in rat pancreatic islets about the changes in the redox environment induced by acute exposure to glucose was carried out.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Short term incubations were performed in isolated rat pancreatic islets. Glucose dose- and time-dependently reduced the intracellular ROS content in pancreatic islets as assayed by fluorescence in a confocal microscope. This decrease was due to activation of pentose-phosphate pathway (PPP). Inhibition of PPP blunted the redox control as well as GSIS in a dose-dependent manner. The addition of low doses of ROS scavengers at high glucose concentration acutely improved beta cell function. The ROS scavenger N-acetyl-L-cysteine increased the intracellular calcium response to glucose that was associated with a small decrease in ROS content. Additionally, the presence of the hydrogen peroxide-specific scavenger catalase, in its membrane-permeable form, nearly doubled glucose metabolism. Interestingly, though an increase in GSIS was also observed, this did not match the effect on glucose metabolism.


The control of ROS content via PPP activation by glucose importantly contributes to the mechanisms that couple the glucose stimulus to insulin secretion. Moreover, we identified intracellular hydrogen peroxide as an inhibitor of glucose metabolism intrinsic to rat pancreatic islets. These findings suggest that the intracellular adjustment of the redox environment by glucose plays an important role in the mechanism of GSIS.