Administration of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), or its sulfated form (DHEAS), controls hyperglycemia in diabetic rodents without directly altering insulin sensitivity. We show that DHEAS enhanced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion when administered in vivo to rats or in vitro to beta-cell lines, without changing cellular insulin content. Insulin secretion increased from 3 days of steroid exposure in vitro, suggesting that DHEAS did not directly activate the secretory processes. DHEAS selectively increased the beta-cell mRNA expression of acyl CoA synthetase-2 and peroxisomal acyl CoA oxidase in a time-dependent manner. Although DHEAS is a peroxisomal proliferator, it did not alter the mRNA expression of peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) alpha or beta, or enhance the activity of transfected PPAR alpha, beta, or gamma in vitro. Thus, DHEAS directly affected the beta-cell to enhance glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and increased the mRNA expression of specific beta-cell mitochondrial and peroxisomal lipid metabolic enzymes. This effect of DHEAS on insulin secretion may contribute to the amelioration of hyperglycemia seen in various rodent models of diabetes.

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