Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The onset of disease is associated with autoimmune attack against pancreatic beta-cells leading to a reduction of their number. While a role for the beta-cell in these events is widely hypothesized, a complete understanding of disease pathogenesis is still lacking. Our group recently found that beta-cell autophagy is defective in the context of human T1D as well as in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse model of autoimmune diabetes. Importantly, our data suggested that defective autophagy is present prior to the onset of diabetes but stopped short of definitively demonstrating pre-existing defects. Therefore, here we evaluated autophagic flux in the pancreatic beta-cells of live mice using a fluorescent biosensor coupled to intravital microscopy. A custom beta-cell-selective autophagy biosensor (AAV8-INS-mCherry-EGFP-LC3B) was intraperitoneally (IP) injected into 7-week-old mice of three strains: wild type C57Bl/6J, NOD and NOD scid gamma (NSG) mice. Three weeks after biosensor injections, mice were placed under inhaled isoflurane anesthesia, then externalized pancreata were imaged using a LEICA SP8 DIVE two-photon microscope mounted with a 40x/1.1NA water objective. To evaluate autophagic flux, we assessed fluorescent signal over time in response to IP infusion of either saline or chloroquine, an autophagy inhibitor. Autophagic flux was assessed by quantifying the rate of change of the ph-sensitive GFP and the ph-insensitive RFP, as well as signal colocalization. In wild type mice, we observed clear evidence of autophagic flux over time that was altered in the presence of chloroquine. However, in contrast, in pre-diabetic NOD mice, islet autophagic flux did not respond effectively to chloroquine treatment. Collectively, these data support the conclusion that autophagy defects precede hyperglycemia and suggest a potential role for these defects in beta cell demise during T1D pathogenesis.


O.Melnyk: None. C.Muralidharan: None. M.M.Martinez irizarry: None. J.Crowder: None. A.K.Linnemann: Consultant; Janssen Research & Development, LLC.


National Institutes of Health (R01DK124380) . Startup funds to AKL from the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research at Indiana University School of Medicine

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