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Involvement of iron depletion in palmitate-induced lipotoxicity of beta cells

Jung, Ik-Rak; Choi, Sung-E; Kang, Yup
Institute for Medical Sciences, Ajou University School of Medicine
High levels of plasma free fatty acid are thought to contribute to the loss of pancreatic beta-cells in type 2 diabetes. In particular, saturated fatty acid such as palmitate or stearate can induce apoptosis in cultured beta cells (lipotoxicity). Endoplasmic reticulum stress is a critical mediator of free fatty acid-induced lipotoxicity. Recently, disorders in mitochondrial respiratory metabolism have been linked to lipotoxicity. Since iron is a critical component of respiratory metabolism, this study is initiated to determine whether abnormal iron metabolism is involved in palmitate induced beta cell death. Immunoblotting analysis showed that treatment of INS-1 beta cells with palmitate reduced the level of transferrin receptor 1 (TfR1), but increased the level of heavy chain ferritin (FTH). In addition, palmitate reduced intracellular labile iron pool. Whereas iron depletion through treatment with iron-chelators deferoxamine or deferasirox augmented palmitate-induced cell death, iron supplementation with ferric chloride, ferrous sulfate, or holo transferrin significantly protected cells against palmitate-induced death. Furthermore, overexpression of TfR1 reduced palmitate induced cell death, whereas knockdown of TfR1 augmented cell death. In particular, treatment with deferoxamine increased the level of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress markers phospho-PERK, phospho-eIF2α, CHOP and phospho-c-Jun N-terminal kinase. Treatment with chemical chaperone significantly protected cells against deferoxamine-induced apoptosis. Iron supplementation also protected cells against palmitate-induced primary islet death. These data suggest that iron depletion plays an important role in palmitate-induced beta cell death through inducing ER stress. Therefore, attempts to block iron depletion might be able to prevent beta cell loss in type 2 diabetes.
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