Susceptibility of pancreatic beta cells to fatty acids is regulated by LXR/PPARα-dependent stearoyl-coenzyme a desaturase

Karine H. Hellemans, Jean Claude Hannaert, Bart Denys, Knut R. Steffensen, Cindy Raemdonck, Geert A. Martens, Paul P. Van Veldhoven, Jan Åke Gustafsson, Daniel Pipeleers

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42 Scopus citations


Chronically elevated levels of fatty acids-FA can cause beta cell death in vitro. Beta cells vary in their individual susceptibility to FA-toxicity. Rat beta cells were previously shown to better resist FA-toxicity in conditions that increased triglyceride formation or mitochondrial and peroxisomal FA-oxidation, possibly reducing cytoplasmic levels of toxic FA-moieties. We now show that stearoyl-CoA desaturase-SCD is involved in this cytoprotective mechanism through its ability to transfer saturated FA into monounsaturated FA that are incorporated in lipids. In purified beta cells, SCD expression was induced by LXR- and PPARa-agonists, which were found to protect rat, mouse and human beta cells against palmitate toxicity. When their SCD was inhibited or silenced, the agonist-induced protection was also suppressed. A correlation between beta cell-SCD expression and susceptibility to palmitate was also found in beta cell preparations isolated from different rodent models. In mice with LXR-deletion (LXRβ-/- and LXRαβ-/-), beta cells presented a reduced SCD-expression as well as an increased susceptibility to palmitate-toxicity, which could not be counteracted by LXR or PPARα agonists. In Zucker fatty rats and in rats treated with the LXR-agonist TO1317, beta cells show an increased SCD-expression and lower palmitate-toxicity. In the normal rat beta cell population, the subpopulation with lower metabolic responsiveness to glucose exhibits a lower SCD1 expression and a higher susceptibility to palmitate toxicity. These data demonstrate that the beta cell susceptibility to saturated fatty acids can be reduced by stearoyl-coA desaturase, which upon stimulation by LXR and PPARα agonists favors their desaturation and subsequent incorporation in neutral lipids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere7266
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 29 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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