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.

Reference:
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.