This study was undertaken to characterize the expression of the gene coding for the adenine nucleotide translocator (ANT) in the insulin-producing β-cell and to study any possible relationship between its expression and the functional state of the β-cell. Adult and fetal rat pancreatic islets were prepared and cultured under different conditions in vitro. The total RNA from these islets and from the insulin-producing RINm5F cells was isolated and analyzed by the Northern blot technique via a cDNA clone (pAAC-9) coding for the bovine ANT. We found that a 1600-base pair (bp) mRNA hybridizing to the pAAC-9 clone could be detected in RINm5F cells, and a 1450-bp mRNA was similarly observed in the islets. These sizes correspond well to previously reported forms of mRNA for the ANT observed in other tissues. When comparing the intensities of the pAAC-9 hybridizing bands of the different islet groups, it was observed that fetal islets contained less of this mRNA than adult islets. Furthermore, the content of the ANT mRNA in adult islets cultured at a high glucose concentration was increased compared with islets cultured at a low glucose concentration. Finally, streptozocin-treated islets, which display an impaired glucose-sensitive insulin release after 6 days in culture, also contained less of this mRNA than the control islets. We conclude that pancreatic islet cells express an mRNA that appears to be highly homologous to the bovine ANT and that the contents of this mRNA increases with the functional status of the β-cell. It is furthermore suggested that defects in the expression of this gene may be associated with impaired glucose sensitivity.

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