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A20 Inhibits Cytokine-Induced Apoptosis and Nuclear Factor κB–Dependent Gene Activation in Islets

Journal of Experimental Medicine
The Rockefeller University Press
Publication Date
  • Original Article
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is an autoimmune disease resulting from apoptotic destruction of β cells in the islets of Langerhans. Low expression of antioxidants and a predilection to produce nitric oxide (NO) have been shown to underscore β cell apoptosis. With this perspective in mind, we questioned whether β cells could mount an induced protective response to inflammation. Here we show that human and rat islets can be induced to rapidly express the antiapoptotic gene A20 after interleukin (IL)-1β activation. Overexpression of A20 by means of adenovirus-mediated gene transfer protects islets from IL-1β and interferon γ–induced apoptosis. The cytoprotective effect of A20 against apoptosis correlates with and is dependent on the abrogation of cytokine-induced NO production. The inhibitory effect of A20 on cytokine-stimulated NO production is due to transcriptional blockade of inducible NO synthase (iNOS) induction; A20 inhibits the activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor κB at a level upstream of IκBα degradation. These data demonstrate a dual antiapoptotic and antiinflammatory function for A20 in β cells. This qualifies A20 as part of the physiological cytoprotective response of islets. We propose that A20 may have therapeutic potential as a gene therapy candidate to achieve successful islet transplantation and the cure of IDDM.

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