Insulin-secreting β cells and glucagon-secreting α cells maintain physiological blood glucose levels, and their malfunction drives diabetes development. Using ChIP sequencing and RNA sequencing analysis, we determined the epigenetic and transcriptional landscape of human pancreatic α, β, and exocrine cells. We found that, compared with exocrine and β cells, differentiated α cells exhibited many more genes bivalently marked by the activating H3K4me3 and repressing H3K27me3 histone modifications. This was particularly true for β cell signature genes involved in transcriptional regulation. Remarkably, thousands of these genes were in a monovalent state in β cells, carrying only the activating or repressing mark. Our epigenomic findings suggested that α to β cell reprogramming could be promoted by manipulating the histone methylation signature of human pancreatic islets. Indeed, we show that treatment of cultured pancreatic islets with a histone methyltransferase inhibitor leads to colocalization of both glucagon and insulin and glucagon and insulin promoter factor 1 (PDX1) in human islets and colocalization of both glucagon and insulin in mouse islets. Thus, mammalian pancreatic islet cells display cell-type–specific epigenomic plasticity, suggesting that epigenomic manipulation could provide a path to cell reprogramming and novel cell replacement-based therapies for diabetes.
Nuria C. Bramswig, Logan J. Everett, Jonathan Schug, Craig Dorrell, Chengyang Liu, Yanping Luo, Philip R. Streeter, Ali Naji, Markus Grompe, Klaus H. Kaestner
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. All accepted letters will be posted on our website within one week of acceptance. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors of all accepted letters will be asked to preview any changes. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were not accepted. As this is a final decision, no appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.