Neonatal rats injected with streptozocin (STZ, 100 mg/kg) at birth exhibited an acute diabetes followed by a spontaneous remission. We have previously shown that this recovery from neonatal diabetes is due to B-cell regeneration and reaccumulation of pancreatic insulin stores starting from 3 to 5 days after birth. The B-cell population during this period is heterogeneous with both surviving B-cells that have escaped the toxic effect of STZ and newly formed B-cells. To evaluate to what extent this B-cell population is functionally normal, we have measured in vitro the dynamics of glucose-induced insulin secretion from pancreatic fragments of rats treated with STZ at birth. The insulin responses were tested at intervals after STZ treatment, from day 1 to day 21 using perifusion of pancreatic fragments, and on day 21 and at 5 mo using perfusion of isolated pancreas.
While the glucose-induced insulin release was completely obtunded (2% of the normal response)on day 1 after STZ, it could be demonstrated after day 3. Moreover, it increased as a function of age (6% and 36% of the normal responses on day 5 and day 14, respectively). This restoration of the insulin response to glucose closely paralleled the recovery of pancreatic insulin stores (6% and 51% of normal values, respectively, on day 5 and day 14). In sharp contrast with the lack of glucose response in vitro in the adult, glucose-induced insulin release was still detected on day21 regardless of the in vitro system used (perifusion or perfusion). Furthermore, on day 21 the B-cells of the STZ rats exhibited a tendency toward enhanced insulin response to arginine, which is a prominent feature in adult rats previously treated with STZ at birth.
The present observations make it unlikely that STZ treatment per se causes a chronic loss of the glucosesensitive insulin secretion mechanism in the surviving B-cells or in the newly formed B-cells. Moreover, as we have previously shown that in adult rats given a neonatal STZ treatment the B-cells exhibit a selective insensitivity to glucose in vivo, the present data support the notion that the pathogenesis of this lesion is caused by factors other than a primary toxic effect of STZ.