AKT1 Regulates Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Mediates the Adaptive Response of Pancreatic {beta} Cells [Research Article]

Isoforms of protein kinase B (also known as AKT) play important roles in mediating insulin and growth factor signals. Previous studies have suggested that the AKT2 isoform is critical for insulin-regulated glucose metabolism, while the role of the AKT1 isoform remains less clear. This study focuses on the effects of AKT1 on the adaptive response of pancreatic β cells. Using a mouse model with inducible β-cell-specific deletion of the Akt1 gene (βA1KO mice), we showed that AKT1 is involved in high-fat-diet (HFD)-induced growth and survival of β cells but is unnecessary for them to maintain a population in the absence of metabolic stress. When unchallenged, βA1KO mice presented the same metabolic profile and β-cell phenotype as the control mice with an intact Akt1 gene. When metabolic stress was induced by HFD, β cells in control mice with intact Akt1 proliferated as a compensatory mechanism for metabolic overload. Similar effects were not observed in βA1KO mice. We further demonstrated that AKT1 protein deficiency caused endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and potentiated β cells to undergo apoptosis. Our results revealed that AKT1 protein loss led to the induction of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 α subunit (eIF2α) signaling and ER stress markers under normal-chow-fed conditions, indicating chronic low-level ER stress. Together, these data established a role for AKT1 as a growth and survival factor for adaptive β-cell response and suggest that ER stress induction is responsible for this effect of AKT1.

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