BACKGROUND: Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus results from an autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin. The lack of insulin leads to chronic hyperglycemia and secondary complications, such as cardiovascular disease. The currently approved clinical treatments for diabetes mellitus often fail to achieve sustained and optimal glycemic control. Therefore, there is a great interest in the development of surrogate beta cells as a treatment for type 1 diabetes. Normally, pancreatic beta cells produce and secrete insulin only in response to increased blood glucose levels. However in many cases, insulin secretion from non-beta cells engineered to produce insulin occurs in a glucose-independent manner. In the present study we engineered liver cells to produce and secrete insulin and insulin secretion can be stimulated via the nitric oxide pathway.

RESULTS: Expression of either human insulin or the beta cell specific transcription factors PDX-1, NeuroD1 and MafA in the Hepa1-6 cell line or primary liver cells via adenoviral gene transfer, results in production and secretion of insulin. Although, the secretion of insulin is not significantly increased in response to high glucose, treatment of these engineered liver cells with L-arginine stimulates insulin secretion up to three-fold. This L-arginine-mediated insulin release is dependent on the production of nitric oxide.

CONCLUSION: Liver cells can be engineered to produce insulin and insulin secretion can be induced by treatment with L-arginine via the production of nitric oxide.

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Published in BMC Physiology, v. 7, 11.

© 2007 Muniappan and Özcan; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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