Glucose amplifies fatty acid-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress in pancreatic β-cells via activation of mTORC1

Etti Bachar*, Yafa Ariav, Mali Ketzinel-Gilad, Erol Cerasi, Nurit Kaiser, Gil Leibowitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Background: Palmitate is a potent inducer of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in β-cells. In type 2 diabetes, glucose amplifies fatty-acid toxicity for pancreatic β-cells, leading to β-cell dysfunction and death. Why glucose exacerbates β-cell lipotoxicity is largely unknown. Glucose stimulates mTORC1, an important nutrient sensor involved in the regulation of cellular stress. Our study tested the hypothesis that glucose augments lipotoxicity by stimulating mTORC1 leading to increased β-cell ER stress. Principal Findings: We found that glucose amplifies palmitate-induced ER stress by increasing IRE1α protein levels and activating the JNK pathway, leading to increased β-cell apoptosis. Moreover, glucose increased mTORC1 activity and its inhibition by rapamycin decreased β-cell apoptosis under conditions of glucolipotoxicity. Inhibition of mTORC1 by rapamycin did not affect proinsulin and total protein synthesis in β-cells incubated at high glucose with palmitate. However, it decreased IRE1α expression and signaling and inhibited JNK pathway activation. In TSC2-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblasts, in which mTORC1 is constitutively active, mTORC1 regulated the stimulation of JNK by ER stressors, but not in response to anisomycin, which activates JNK independent of ER stress. Finally, we found that JNK inhibition decreased β-cell apoptosis under conditions of glucolipotoxicity. Conclusions/Significance: Collectively, our findings suggest that mTORC1 mediates glucose amplification of lipotoxicity, acting through activation of ER stress and JNK. Thus, mTORC1 is an important transducer of ER stress in β-cell glucolipotoxicity. Moreover, in stressed β-cells mTORC1 inhibition decreases IRE1α protein expression and JNK activity without affecting ER protein load, suggesting that mTORC1 regulates the β-cell stress response to glucose and fatty acids by modulating the synthesis and activity of specific proteins involved in the execution of the ER stress response. This novel paradigm may have important implications for understanding β-cell failure in type 2 diabetes.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere4954
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Israel Science Foundation, an Israeli National non-profit organization and a major source of competitive grant funding, supported part of the cost involved in performing the reseach. The Foundation was not involved in the decision to submit the work for publication.


Dive into the research topics of 'Glucose amplifies fatty acid-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress in pancreatic β-cells via activation of mTORC1'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this