A Protein Marker of Mature Human Pancreatic Alpha and Beta Cells

A special beta cell protein, called UCn 3, has been suggested as a potential marker of mature beta-cells due to its exclusive production late in the beta-cell maturation process in mice and its key role in insulin secretion. This new study from Dr. Huising’s group, which originally discovered the protein, has demonstrated that UCn 3 expression in primates does not only occur in beta cells, but also extends to alpha cells. This finding changes the potential utility of this protein as a potential beta cell marker since it will not distinguish between alpha and beta cells in transdifferentiation. However, UCn 3 remains useful as a marker to assess human stem cell-derived beta cell maturation, provided that levels of insulin and glucagon are also examined simultaneously to distinguish UCn 3 derived from mature beta cells versus from alpha cells.

Ramifications for Individuals with T1D:
Markers of beta cell health, function, stress and regeneration are an ongoing need to support the development of new therapies to cure T1D.

JDRF Involvement:
JDRF supports Dr. Huising’s research.

Investigators and Institutions:
Dr. Mark O. Huising at the Peptide Biology Laboratories, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California.

Van der Meulen T, Xie R, Kelly OG, Vale WW, Sander M, Huising MO. (2012) Urocortin 3 marks mature human primary and embryonic stem cell-derived pancreatic alpha and beta cells. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52181. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052181. Epub 2012 Dec 14.