Insulin is first produced in pancreatic β-cells as the precursor prohormone proinsulin. Defective proinsulin processing has been implicated in the pathogenesis of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Though there is substantial evidence that mouse β-cells process proinsulin using prohormone convertase 1/3 (PC1/3) and then prohormone convertase 2 (PC2), this finding has not been verified in human β-cells. Immunofluorescence with validated antibodies revealed that there was no detectable PC2 immunoreactivity in human β-cells and little PCSK2 mRNA by in situ hybridization. Similarly, rat β-cells were not immunoreactive for PC2. In all histological experiments, PC2 immunoreactivity in neighboring α-cells acted as a positive control. In donors with type 2 diabetes, β-cells had elevated PC2 immunoreactivity, suggesting that aberrant PC2 expression may contribute to impaired proinsulin processing in β-cells of patients with diabetes. To support histological findings using a biochemical approach, human islets were used for pulse-chase experiments. Despite inhibition of PC2 function by temperature blockade, brefeldin A, chloroquine, and multiple inhibitors that blocked production of mature glucagon from proglucagon, β-cells retained the ability to produce mature insulin. Conversely, suppression of PC1/3 blocked processing of proinsulin but not proglucagon. By demonstrating that healthy human β-cells process proinsulin by PC1/3 but not PC2, we suggest that there is a need to revise the long-standing theory of proinsulin processing.
- Received March 13, 2019.
- Accepted April 3, 2020.
- © 2020 by the American Diabetes Association