The aim of the present study was to clarify whether prolonged in vitro exposure of human pancreatic islets to high glucose concentrations impairs the function of these cells. For this purpose, islets isolated from adult cadaveric organ donors were cultured for seven days in RPMI 1640 medium supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum and containing either 5.6, 11, or 28 mM glucose. There was no glucose-induced decrease in islet DNA content or signs of morphological damage. However, islets cultured at 11 or 28 mM glucose showed a 45 or 60% decrease in insulin content, as compared to islets cultured at 5.6 mM glucose. Moreover, when such islets were submitted to a 60-min stimulation with a low (1.7 mM) followed by a high (16.7 mM) concentration of glucose, the islets cultured at 5.6 mM glucose showed a higher insulin response to glucose than those of the two other groups. Islets cultured at the two higher glucose concentrations showed increased rates of insulin release in the presence of low glucose, and a failure to enhance further the release in response to an elevated glucose level. Islets cultured at 28 mM glucose showed an absolute decrease in insulin release after stimulation with 16.7 mM glucose, as compared to islets cultured at 5.6 mM glucose. The rates of glucose oxidation, proinsulin biosynthesis, and total protein biosynthesis were similar in islets cultured at 5.6 or 11 mM glucose, but they were decreased in islets cultured at 28 mM glucose. These combined results suggest that lasting exposure to high glucose concentrations impairs the function of human pancreatic islets.
D L Eizirik, G S Korbutt, C Hellerström