Adenosine signaling promotes regeneration of pancreatic β cells in vivo

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Diabetes can be controlled with insulin injections, but a curative approach that restores the number of insulin-producing β cells is still needed. Using a zebrafish model of diabetes, we screened ∼7,000 small molecules to identify enhancers of β cell regeneration. The compounds we identified converge on the adenosine signaling pathway and include exogenous agonists and compounds that inhibit degradation of endogenously produced adenosine. The most potent enhancer of β cell regeneration was the adenosine agonist 5′-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (NECA), which, acting through the adenosine receptor A2aa, increased β cell proliferation and accelerated restoration of normoglycemia in zebrafish. Despite markedly stimulating β cell proliferation during regeneration, NECA had only a modest effect during development. The proliferative and glucose-lowering effect of NECA was confirmed in diabetic mice, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved role for adenosine in β cell regeneration. With this whole-organism screen, we identified components of the adenosine pathway that could be therapeutically targeted for the treatment of diabetes. ©2012 Elsevier Inc.




Andersson, O., Adams, B. A., Yoo, D., Ellis, G. C., Gut, P., Anderson, R. M., … Stainier, D. Y. R. (2012). Adenosine signaling promotes regeneration of pancreatic β cells in vivo. Cell Metabolism, 15(6), 885–894.

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