The idea that the gene(s) that cause diabetes mellitus can be expressed in extrapancreatic cells has been examined by tissue culture techniques. Skin biopsies were obtained from 25 normal subjects (N), 26 overt diabetics (D), 16 of juvenile onset (JOD) and 9 of maturity onset (MOD), and 21 subjects genetically predisposed to diabetes (P) on the basis of maturity-onset diabetes in both parents. Each biopsy was subdivided, multiple skin fragments were explanted in vitro, and several parameters of cellular outgrowth were monitored in primary and secondary cultures until cell division ceased because of senescence. In general, the rank order of growth vigor was N greater than P greater than D although differences were often marginal and statistically significant between N and JOD and(or) MOD. Outgrowth of epithelial cells was more vigorous in N explants in early stages, but later, JOD and MOD cells grew better than those of N. Outgrowth of fibroblast cells from N explants was more vigorous both at early and later stages and required less time to achieve maximum percent outgrowth. In secondary cultures, N cells grew faster than the other three groups so that fewer days elapsed between subcultures but significant differences were only seen between N and one or two of the other groups over some of the first seven subcultures. The onset of cellular senescence occurred earlier in P and JOD cultures both in mean population doublings and calendar time. N cultures had a higher percent surviving clones after picking than MOD, and a shorter recloning time than clones of JOD. The replicative life-spans of cultures (mean population doublings +/- SE) were N = 52.54 +/- 2.24, P = 47.84 +/- 2.43, JOD = 47.12 +/- 2.99, and MOD = 46.40 +/- 4.04, but differences did not reach significance for N vs the other three groups. The data demonstrate that cellular growth is impaired in both JOD and MOD types of cultures and to a generally lesser extent in P cultures. This is consistent with intrinsic genetic defects but the possibility that persistent deleterious effects of in vivo pathophysiology contribute alone or in combination cannot be ruled out. Therefore, the diabetic defect(s) can be expressed in extrapancreatic cells of mesenchymal origin. This system should prove useful in exploring the interplay between genetic and environmental factors in diabetes, the mechanisms(s) of hyperglycemia and other metabolic derangements, and the propensity that affected individuals have to develop degenerative diseases.
S Goldstein, E J Moerman, J S Soeldner, R E Gleason, D M Barnett