In mice, diabetes can be induced by multiple low doses of streptozotocin (MLD-STZ), i.e., 40 mg/kg body wt on each of 5 consecutive days. In this model, diabetes develops only when STZ induces both β-cell toxicity and T-cell- dependent immune reactions. The target molecule(s) of MLD-STZ-induced β-cell toxicity are not known, however. In this study, we report that GLUT2 is a target molecule for MLD-STZ toxicity. Ex vivo, a gradual decrement of both GLUT2 protein and mRNA expression was found in pancreatic islets isolated from MLDSTZ-treated C57BL/6 male mice, whereas mRNA expression of β-actin, glucokinase, and proinsulin remained unaffected. Significant reduction of both GLUT2 protein and mRNA expression was first noted 1 day after the third STZ injection, clearly preceding the onset of hyperglycemia. The extent of reduction increased with the number of STZ injections administered and increased over time, after the last, i.e., fifth, STZ injection. The STZ-induced reduction of GLUT2 protein and mRNA was not due to an essential loss of β-cells, because ex vivo, not only the total RNA yield and protein content in isolated islets, but also proinsulin mRNA expression, failed to differ significantly in the differently treated groups. Furthermore, islets isolated from MLD-STZ-treated donors responded to the nonglucose secretagogue arginine in a pattern similar to that of solvent-treated donors. Interestingly, the MLD-STZ-induced reduction of both GLUT2 protein and mRNA was prevented by preinjecting mice with 5-thio-D-glucose before each STZ injection. Apparently, GLUT2 is a crucial target molecule of MLD-STZ toxicity, and this toxicity seems to precede the immune reactions against β-cells.

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