Among its pleiotropic actions, ghrelin modulates insulin secretion and glucose metabolism. Herein we investigated the role of ghrelin in pancreatic β-cell proliferation and apoptosis induced by serum starvation or interferon (IFN)-γ/TNF-α, whose synergism is a major cause for β-cell destruction in type I diabetes. HIT-T15 β-cells expressed ghrelin but not ghrelin receptor (GRLN-R), which binds acylated ghrelin (AG) only. However, both unacylated ghrelin (UAG) and AG recognized common high-affinity binding sites on these cells. Either AG or UAG stimulated cell proliferation through Gαs protein and prevented serum starvation- and IFN-γ/TNF-α-induced apoptosis. Antighrelin antibody enhanced apoptosis in either the presence or absence of serum but not cytokines. AG and UAG even up-regulated intracellular cAMP. Blockade of adenylyl cyclase/cAMP/protein kinase A signaling prevented the ghrelin cytoprotective effect. AG and UAG also activated phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and ERK1/2, whereas PI3K and MAPK inhibitors counteracted the ghrelin antiapoptotic effect. Furthermore, AG and UAG stimulated insulin secretion from HIT-T15 cells. In INS-1E β-cells, which express GRLN-R, AG and UAG caused proliferation and protection against apoptosis through identical signaling pathways. Noteworthy, both peptides inhibited cytokine-induced NO increase in either HIT-T15 or INS-1E cells. Finally, they induced cell survival and protection against apoptosis in human islets of Langerhans. These expressed GRLN-R but showed also UAG and AG binding sites. Our data demonstrate that AG and UAG promote survival of both β-cells and human islets. These effects are independent of GRLN-R, are likely mediated by AG/UAG binding sites, and involve cAMP/PKA, ERK1/2, and PI3K/Akt.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism