Resistance of the insulin crystal to lysosomal proteases: implications for pancreatic B-cell crinophagy

  • Halban P
  • Mutkoski R
  • Dodson G
 et al. 
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Insulin is thought to be chemically stabilized within beta-granules in the crystal form. The other major products of the beta-granule, proinsulin and C-peptide, by contrast, are not thought able to crystallize. The physico-chemical properties of peptides in soluble or crystalline form are dramatically different. The ability of insulin to crystallize in the beta-granule might thus explain why this peptide, but not proinsulin/C-peptide, remains stable even after its introduction into lysosomes as occurs during granulolysis (crinophagy). We have now studied this by exposing proinsulin or insulin to lysosomal proteases in vitro. 125I-insulin in soluble form was found to be degraded at the same rate as 125I-proinsulin. Strikingly, however, when the labelled insulin was crystallized, its rate of degradation was decreased from 1.9 to 0.2 pmol/min. We take these data as confirmation that the insulin crystal is resistant to degradation, thereby possibly accounting for (a) the presence of insulin immunoreactivity within multigranular bodies, and (b) the unusually slow rate of degradation of insulin within B cells compared with that of other hormones in their cells of origin.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Insulin
  • crinophagy
  • degradation
  • insulin crystals
  • lysosomes
  • proinsulin

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  • P. A. Halban

  • R. Mutkoski

  • G. Dodson

  • L. Orci

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