Dos Santos C, Karagiannopoulos A, Rafacho A, Perfilyev A, Eliasson L, Ling C, Bacos K
Life Sciences 307 (-) 120854 [2022-10-15; online 2022-07-30]
Synthetic glucocorticoids, including dexamethasone (DEX), are clinically prescribed due to their immunoregulatory properties. In excess they can perturb glucose homeostasis, with individuals predisposed to glucose intolerance more sensitive to these negative effects. While DEX is known to negatively impact β-cell function, it is unclear how. Hence, our aim was to investigate the effect of DEX on β-cell function, both alone and in combination with a diabetogenic milieu in the form of elevated glucose and palmitate. Human pancreatic EndoC-βH1 cells were cultured in the presence of high glucose and palmitate (glucolipotoxicity) and/or a pharmacological concentration of DEX, before functional and molecular analyses. Either treatment alone resulted in reduced insulin content and secretion, while the combination of DEX and glucolipotoxicity promoted a strong synergistic effect. These effects were associated with reduced insulin biosynthesis, likely due to downregulation of PDX1, MAFA, and the proinsulin converting enzymes, as well as reduced ATP response upon glucose stimulation. Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis found changes on PDE4D, MBNL1 and TMEM178B, all implicated in β-cell function, after all three treatments. DEX alone caused very strong demethylation of the glucocorticoid-regulated gene ZBTB16, also known to influence the β-cell, while the combined treatment caused altered methylation of many known β-cell regulators and diabetes candidate genes. DEX treatment and glucolipotoxic conditions separately alter the β-cell epigenome and function. The combination of both treatments exacerbates these changes, showing that caution is needed when prescribing potent glucocorticoids in patients with dysregulated metabolism.