Biomarkers capable of monitoring β cell stress during the evolution of type 1 diabetes (T1D) are currently lacking. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs ∼22 nucleotides in length that modulate gene expression by binding to the 3’untranslated region of target mRNAs. Given their stability in biological fluids and enrichment in cell-derived EVs, we hypothesized that miRNAs from human islet and islet-derived EVs could identify β-cell stress/death and be leveraged in T1D biomarker strategies. To test this, human islets were obtained from 10 cadaveric donors (5 male/5 female) and treated with or without cytokines (IL-1β and IFN-γ) for 24 hrs, as an ex vivo model of T1D. Small RNA sequencing was performed and identified 1110 and 890 miRNAs in total and 20 and 14 differentially expressed (DE) miRNAs (fold change≥1.5 and p<0.05) from islets and EVs, respectively. These findings were validated in an independent set of cytokine-treated islets and islet-derived EVs (7M and 5F donors). Interestingly, miRNA expression pattern was strikingly different between male and female donors at baseline and under cytokine stress with < 10% overlap among the DE miRNAs. miR-155-5p and miR-146a-5p were the only two miRNAs that were upregulated in cytokine-treated islets and EVs in both the sexes. Functional enrichment analysis of DE miRNAs identified pathways such as insulin signaling, ER stress and apoptosis. Taken together, these data suggest that miRNA expression patterns change dynamically in both human islets and islet-derived EVs in response to pro-inflammatory cytokine stress. EV miRNAs were largely distinct from those in the islet fraction, suggesting that miRNAs are selectively packaged into EVs in response to extrinsic cues. Finally, these data highlight the importance of considering sex as a biological variable when defining T1D biomarkers.


F. Syed: None. P. Krishnan: None. I. Restrepo: None. R. Mirmira: Advisory Panel; Self; Hibercell, Sigilon Therapeutics, Veralox Therapeutics. Employee; Spouse/Partner; Eli Lilly and Company. C. Evans-Molina: Consultant; Self; Bristol-Myers Squibb.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01DK093954, UC4-DK104166 to C.E-M., R.M.); U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (I01BX001733 to C.E-M.); JDRF (3-SRA-2014-41-Q-R); Sigma Beta Sorority; Ball Brothers Foundation; George and Frances Ball Foundation (to C.E-M.); Indiana Diabetes Research Center (P30DK097512)

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