Autophagy is a lysosomal degradative pathway that plays an important role in maintaining cellular homeostasis. We previously showed that the inhibition of autophagy causes pancreatic β-cell apoptosis, suggesting that autophagy is a protective mechanism for the survival of pancreatic β-cells. The current study demonstrates that treatment with inhibitors and knockdown of the lysosomal cysteine proteases such as cathepsins B and L impair autophagy, enhancing the caspase-dependent apoptosis of INS-1 cells and islets upon exposure to high concentration of glucose. Interestingly, treatment with cathepsin B and L inhibitors prevented the proteolytic processing of cathepsins B, D and L, as evidenced by gradual accumulation of the respective pro-forms. Of note, inhibition of aspartic cathepsins had no effect on autophagy and cell viability, suggesting the selective role of cathepsins B and L in the regulation of β-cell autophagy and apoptosis. Lysosomal localization of accumulated pro-cathepsins in the presence of cathepsin B and L inhibitors was verified via immunocytochemistry and lysosomal fractionation. Lysotracker staining indicated that cathepsin B and L inhibitors led to the formation of severely enlarged lysosomes in a timedependent manner. The abnormal accumulation of pro-cathepsins following treatment with inhibitors of cathepsins B and L suppressed normal lysosomal degradation and the processing of lysosomal enzymes, leading to lysosomal dysfunction. Collectively, our findings suggest that cathepsin defects following the inhibition of cathepsin B and L result in lysosomal dysfunction and consequent cell death in pancreatic β-cells.
Jung, M., Lee, J., Seo, H. Y., Lim, J. S., & Kim, E. K. (2015). Cathepsin inhibition-induced lysosomal dysfunction enhances pancreatic beta-cell apoptosis in high glucose. PLoS ONE, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116972