Pulsatile increases in Ca2+ within beta cells underlie the stimulation of insulin secretion at elevated glucose concentrations. Recent data obtained by imaging these transients in intact islets have revealed the existence of subpopulations of beta cells (“leaders”) which initiate Ca2+ waves across the syncytium and are critical for these dynamics. Whether leader cells possess unique transcriptional features is unknown. By combining Ca2+ imaging with cell labelling and isolation, we sought to address this question.

Method: Islets were isolated from C57BL6/J mice expressing the Ca2+ probe GCaMP6f selectively in beta cells. After infection with an adenovirus expressing photo-activable- (PA) mCherry, Ca2+ imaging was performed at 11mM glucose at 5 Hz. Leader (or follower) cells were identified and photopainted by PA-mCherry activation at 405nm. After islet dispersal, cell sorting was used to isolate single cells. cDNA libraries were obtained using NEBNext Single cell kit and used for sequencing (Illumina HiSeq 4000) . Reads were aligned to the mmtranscriptome with Salmon v1.3 and differential expression analysis performed with DESeq2. Differentially expressed genes were subjected to Gene Ontology analysis.

Results: cDNA was obtained from 13 leader cells, identified as those exhibiting the first Ca2+ signal increase during Ca2+ waves, and 9 follower cells. Of 96 differentially expressed genes, the most strongly affected included cell adhesion proteins (Cdh22; Scarf2) and the calcium sensor Mctp1. Other genes identified were involved in mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake (Mcub) , cytochrome assembly (Tmem177) and type 2 diabetes risk (Tcf7l2) . GO analysis identified 9 enriched functional clusters, including protein ubiquitination and metal ion binding.

Conclusion: Leader cells possess a stably altered transcriptome, and the affected genes include several which may regulate cell adhesion. The extent to which the identified genes reflect the contribution of these cells to Ca2+ wave initiation requires further study.


P.L.Chabosseau: n/a. S.Yong: None. L.Lopez: None. I.Leclerc: None. Y.Ali: n/a. A.Martinez-sanchez: None. G.A.Rutter: Advisory Panel; Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Research Support; Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

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