Despite treatment with agents that enhance β-cell function and insulin action, reduction in β-cell mass is relentless in patients with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Insulin resistance is characterized by impaired signaling through the insulin/insulin receptor/insulin receptor substrate/PI-3K/Akt pathway, leading to elevation of negatively regulated substrates such as glycogen synthase kinase-3β (Gsk-3β). When elevated, this enzyme has antiproliferative and proapoptotic properties. In these studies, we designed experiments to determine the contribution of Gsk-3β to regulation of β-cell mass in two mouse models of insulin resistance. Mice lacking one allele of the insulin receptor (Ir+/-) exhibit insulin resistance and a doubling of β-cell mass. Crossing these mice with those having haploinsufficiency for Gsk-3β (Gsk-3β +/-) reduced insulin resistance by augmenting whole-body glucose disposal, and significantly reduced β-cell mass. In the second model, mice missing two alleles of the insulin receptor substrate 2 (Irs2-/-), like the Ir+/- mice, are insulin resistant, but develop profound β-cell loss, resulting in early diabetes. We found that islets from these mice had a 4-fold elevation of Gsk-3β activity associated with a marked reduction of β-cell proliferation and increased apoptosis. Irs2 -/- mice crossed with Gsk-3β+/- mice preserved β-cell mass by reversing the negative effects on proliferation and apoptosis, preventing onset of diabetes. Previous studies had shown that islets of Irs2-/- mice had increased cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27kip1 that was limiting for β-cell replication, and reduced Pdx1 levels associated with increased cell death. Preservation of β-cell mass in Gsk-3β+/-Irs2-/- mice was accompanied by suppressed p27kip1 levels and increased Pdx1 levels. To separate peripheral versus β-cell-specific effects of reduction of Gsk3β activity on preservation of β-cell mass, mice homozygous for a floxed Gsk-3β allele (Gsk-3F/F) were then crossed with rat insulin promoter-Cre (RIP-Cre) mice to produce β-cell-specific knockout of Gsk-3β (βGsk-3β-/-). Like Gsk-3β+/- mice, βGsk-3β-/- mice also prevented the diabetes of the Irs2-/- mice. The results of these studies now define a new, negatively regulated substrate of the insulin signaling pathway specifically within β-cells that when elevated, can impair replication and increase apoptosis, resulting in loss of β-cells and diabetes. These results thus form the rationale for developing agents to inhibit this enzyme in obese insulin-resistant individuals to preserve β-cells and prevent diabetes onset. © 2008 Tanabe et al.
Tanabe, K., Liu, Z., Patel, S., Doble, B. W., Li, L., Cras-Méneur, C., … Permutt, M. A. (2008). Genetic deficiency of glycogen synthase kinase-3β corrects diabetes in mouse models of insulin resistance. PLoS Biology, 6(2), 0307–0318. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060037