Irisin is a hormone secreted by skeletal muscle following physical activity and excess of saturated fatty acids, able to improve metabolic homeostasis and promote energy expenditure. In a previous study, we have demonstrated that, in beta-cells, irisin promotes proliferation and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS), increases insulin content levels, and reduces lipotoxicity-induced apoptosis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of irisin on the function and survival of pancreatic islets isolated from patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), characterized by reduced ability to secrete insulin and high levels of apoptosis, and to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying this action. Pancreatic islets isolated from T2DM patients (n=7) and nondiabetic subjects (ND) (n=3), as well as INS-1E cells, were exposed to 100 nM irisin for different times. GSIS, insulin content, apoptosis and cytoplasmic calcium levels were measured by ELISA assays; the activation of the main mediators of beta-cell intracellular signalling (AKT, CREB and PKA) was evaluated by immunoblotting. Irisin increased GSIS approximately 2-fold (p<0.05) in both ND and T2DM islets. Notably, in T2DM islets, characterized by reduced GSIS, this was restored to the levels of ND islets. In addition, irisin increased insulin content (1.6-fold in ND, 1.9-fold in T2DM, p<0.05) and tendentially decreased apoptosis levels only in T2DM islets. Moreover, irisin was able to activate AKT and CREB under conditions of high glucose in the ND islets, without changing cytoplasmic calcium levels. In contrast, in the T2DM islets, irisin did not induce AKT or CREB activation.

In conclusion, the myokine irisin is able to increase the secretory function and survival of human pancreatic islets and to improve the functional defects typical of the T2DM islets. The mechanisms underlying the secretagogue effects of irisin in the T2DM islets do not apparently involve the known signaling machinery of this novel hormone.


N. Marrano: None. A. Natalicchio: Consultant; Self; AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk Inc., Sanofi-Aventis. G. Biondi: None. A. Cignarelli: None. L. Vincenti: None. L.G. Lupo: None. S. Perrini: None. L. Laviola: Advisory Panel; Self; Abbott, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH, Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk Inc., Roche Diabetes Care, Sanofi-Aventis. Speaker’s Bureau; Self; Abbott, Medtronic. F. Giorgino: Advisory Panel; Self; AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk Inc., Roche Diabetes Care, Sanofi. Consultant; Self; AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., LifeScan, Inc., MedImmune, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., Roche Diabetes Care, Sanofi. Research Support; Self; Eli Lilly and Company, LifeScan, Inc., Takeda Development Centre Europe Ltd.


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