Desmoglein-2 is important for islet function and β-cell survival

Kay K. Myo Min, Darling Rojas-Canales, Daniella Penko, Mark DeNichilo, Michaelia P. Cockshell, Charlie B. Ffrench, Emma J. Thompson, Olof Asplund, Christopher J. Drogemuller, Rashmi B. Prasad, Leif Groop, Shane T. Grey, Helen E. Thomas, Thomas Loudovaris, Thomas W. Kay, My G. Mahoney, Claire F. Jessup, P. Toby Coates, Claudine S. Bonder

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Type 1 diabetes is a complex disease characterized by the lack of endogenous insulin secreted from the pancreatic β-cells. Although β-cell targeted autoimmune processes and β-cell dysfunction are known to occur in type 1 diabetes, a complete understanding of the cell-to-cell interactions that support pancreatic function is still lacking. To characterize the pancreatic endocrine compartment, we studied pancreata from healthy adult donors and investigated a single cell surface adhesion molecule, desmoglein-2 (DSG2). Genetically-modified mice lacking Dsg2 were examined for islet cell mass, insulin production, responses to glucose, susceptibility to a streptozotocin-induced mouse model of hyperglycaemia, and ability to cure diabetes in a syngeneic transplantation model. Herein, we have identified DSG2 as a previously unrecognized adhesion molecule that supports β-cells. Furthermore, we reveal that DSG2 is within the top 10 percent of all genes expressed by human pancreatic islets and is expressed by the insulin-producing β-cells but not the somatostatin-producing δ-cells. In a Dsg2 loss-of-function mice (Dsg2lo/lo), we observed a significant reduction in the number of pancreatic islets and islet size, and consequently, there was less total insulin content per islet cluster. Dsg2lo/lo mice also exhibited a reduction in blood vessel barrier integrity, an increased incidence of streptozotocin-induced diabetes, and islets isolated from Dsg2lo/lo mice were more susceptible to cytokine-induced β-cell apoptosis. Following transplantation into diabetic mice, islets isolated from Dsg2lo/lo mice were less effective than their wildtype counterparts at curing diabetes. In vitro assays using the Beta-TC-6 murine β-cell line suggest that DSG2 supports the actin cytoskeleton as well as the release of cytokines and chemokines. Taken together, our study suggests that DSG2 is an under-appreciated regulator of β-cell function in pancreatic islets and that a better understanding of this adhesion molecule may provide new opportunities to combat type 1 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number911
Number of pages15
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Desmoglein-2
  • β-Cells
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • islet cell mass
  • Beta-TC-6 murine


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