Pancreatic islet (dys)function and failure is central to both type 2 diabetes (T2D) genetic risk and pathogenesis. Islet cellular heterogeneity has impeded precise understanding of the specific gene(s) and pathway(s) in each cell type that are altered by and/or may contribute to pathophysiology in the prediabetic (PD) and type 2 diabetic (T2D) states. To identify cellular and molecular features of islet dysfunction in PD and T2D states, we completed single cell transcriptome profiling of 137k human islet cells from 11 ND, 6 PD, and 11 T2D donors (⋃5k/individual).

Single cell transcriptomes aggregated into distinct clusters of endocrine (alpha, beta, delta, PP/gamma), exocrine (acinar, stellate, ductal), endothelial, and immune cell types. Targeted analysis of each endocrine cell type identified a proliferative alpha cell sub-population comprising ∼0.15-0.3% of endocrine cells and variable insulin production and endoplasmic reticulum stress beta cell states. We compared the proportion of islet endocrine cell type (sub)populations sampled between T2D, PD, and ND donors and found that T2D samples contained significantly fewer beta cells and more alpha cells than ND and, to a lesser degree, PD samples. Delta and PP/gamma cell proportions were similar between disease states. Importantly, no (sub)populations were ND, PD, or T2D-specific.

We compared aggregate T2D, PD, and ND cell type-specific transcriptomes to identify differentially expressed genes in each cell type. Genes related to exocytic granule assembly/organization, including those induced by T2D risk variants (DGKB) or T2D state (GAP43), were among 99 genes induced in T2D beta cells. 103 repressed genes included those associated with glucose transport and implicated as T2D GWAS effector genes such as SLC2A2, SLC5A1, and STARD10, a gene whose deletion in mice impairs islet insulin secretion. Studies are ongoing to assess the functional role(s) of these and additional genes in islet (dys)function.


N. Lawlor: None. R. Kursawe: None. M.L. Stitzel: None.


American Diabetes Association/Pathway to Stop Diabetes (1-18-ACE-15 to M.L.S.)

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