Apoptosis in the Pancreatic Islet Cells of the Neonatal Rat Is Associated with a Reduced Expression of Insulin-Like Growth Factor II that May Act as a Survival Factor*
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Islet cell ontogeny will define adult beta-cell mass and will consist of a balance of islet cell birth and death. We have investigated the ontogeny of factors that may be related to developmental apoptosis in the islets, insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), in pancreata of young Wistar rats. Pancreata were collected from rats of 21 days gestation to 29 days postnatal age. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry showed that IGF-II was expressed and present in fetal and neonatal islet cells, but declined rapidly 2 weeks after birth. Little IGF-I was associated with fetal or postnatal islets. Apoptosis in islet cells was visualized by molecular histochemistry for DNA breakage in tissue sections. Apoptosis was low in the fetus, but increased in incidence postnatally so that 13% of islet cells were undergoing apoptosis on postnatal day 14, with the incidence declining thereafter. Immunohistochemistry for iNOS showed that it was expressed within beta-cells and was most abundant 12 days after birth. When islets were isolated from rat pancreata 20-22 days after birth, islet cell viability, DNA synthetic rate, and insulin release were reduced after incubation with interleukin-1beta, tumor necrosis factor, or interferon-gamma. An increased rate of islet cell survival was found after simultaneous incubation with IGF-I or -II. Cytokine-mediated islet cell death involved the induction of apoptosis. Islets isolated from neonatal rats were not killed after exposure to these cytokines at the same concentrations, but cytokine-induced cell death was seen when neonatal islets were incubated with a neutralizing antibody against IGF-II. These experiments show that a peak of islet cell apoptosis that is maximal in the rat pancreas 14 days after birth is temporally associated with a fall in the islet cell expression of IGF-II. IGF-II was shown to function as an islet survival factor in vitro. The induction of islet cell apoptosis in vivo may involve an increased expression of iNOS within beta-cells.
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