Insulin secretory granules control autophagy in pancreatic β cells

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Science  20 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6224, pp. 878-882
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2628

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Too hungry to eat, too hungry not to eat

Pancreatic beta cells, the source of insulin in response to food, employ an unusual mechanism to adapt to nutrient depletion. Goginashvili et al. found that starvation of beta cells induced selective degradation of newly formed insulin granules through their fusion with lysosomes, the cell's garbage disposal units (see the Perspective by Rutter). The nutrient sensor mTOR is recruited to these lysosomes, leading to its local activation and the suppression of autophagy—a process by which cells “eat” their own constituents. Protein kinase D, a major regulator of insulin granule biogenesis, controls this granule degradation in response to nutrient availability. Thus, unlike most other cells, autophagy is not the strategy of choice in beta cells to adapt to starvation.

Science, this issue p. 878; see also p. 826


Pancreatic β cells lower insulin release in response to nutrient depletion. The question of whether starved β cells induce macroautophagy, a predominant mechanism maintaining energy homeostasis, remains poorly explored. We found that, in contrast to many mammalian cells, macroautophagy in pancreatic β cells was suppressed upon starvation. Instead, starved β cells induced lysosomal degradation of nascent secretory insulin granules, which was controlled by protein kinase D (PKD), a key player in secretory granule biogenesis. Starvation-induced nascent granule degradation triggered lysosomal recruitment and activation of mechanistic target of rapamycin that suppressed macroautophagy. Switching from macroautophagy to insulin granule degradation was important to keep insulin secretion low upon fasting. Thus, β cells use a PKD-dependent mechanism to adapt to nutrient availability and couple autophagy flux to secretory function.

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