Long-chain saturated fatty acid species are better tolerated by human than rodent pancreatic β-cells and may offer protection against pro-inflammatory cytokine induced β-cell death

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Authors

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Exeter

Abstract

Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes (T2D) although the causal links remain unclear. A feature shared by both conditions however is systemic inflammation and raised levels of circulating fatty acids (FFA). It is widely believed that in obese individuals genetically prone to T2D, elevated levels of plasma FFA may contribute towards the death and dysfunction of insulin-producing pancreatic β-cells in a process of (gluco)lipotoxicity. In support of this, in vitro studies have shown consistently that long-chain saturated fatty acids (LC-SFA) are toxic to rodent β-cells during chronic exposure (>24h). Conversely, shorter chain SFA and unsaturated species are well tolerated, suggesting that toxicity is dependent on carbon chain length and/or double bond configuration. Despite the wealth of evidence implicating lipotoxicity as a means of β-cell death in rodents, the evidence that a similar process occurs in humans is much less substantial. Therefore, the present study has evaluated the effects of chronic exposure to fatty acids of varying chain length and degree of saturation, on the viability of human β-cells in culture. We have also studied the effects of a combination of fatty acids and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Strikingly, we find that LC-FFA do not readily promote the demise of human β-cells and that they may even offer a measure of protection against the toxic effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, these findings imply that a model in which elevated circulating LC-FFA play a direct role in mediating β-cell dysfunction and death in humans, may be overly simplistic.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalNutrition & Metabolism
Volume18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Long-chain fatty acids, human pancreatic β-cells, pro-inflammatory cytokines, lipotoxicity, type 2 diabetes