The vital hormone insulin requires help to acquire the right structure. A protein which plays an important role in the process of insulin folding has been discovered in the new research. The research outcomes have been published in the scientific journal Diabetes.
This research was conducted by researchers at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. They hope the findings can be used to develop treatments for different conditions like the increased level of insulin in the blood called as hyperinsulinemia.
Although scientists have been studied insulin for many years, particularly about diabetes, they are still trying to make new findings regarding it. Now scientists from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen have uncovered a previously unfamiliar process in insulin production.
Beta cells present in the pancreas produce insulin, as a precursor called proinsulin. For proinsulin to develop into functional insulin, it requires to be processed properly to attain the right structure with aid from proteins. These proteins are termed as chaperones. The researchers have now revealed and recognized such a chaperone. A proinsulin chaperone termed glucose-regulated protein GRP94.
Although proinsulin has a quite short sequence still it needs help attaining the accurate structure to become functional insulin. However, some other studies have also revealed that proinsulin can be folded without any help from proteins in artificial cell-free conditions.
But after research on live cells, researchers found that proinsulin is not folded correctly. They also found that it does not acquire the right structure without help from GRP94.
Impaired Insulin Production and Secretion
In the study, the scientists then removed or repressed the protein GRP94 to see what happened with the proinsulin and the cells.
They detected that the proinsulin was not accurately folded and the beta cells did not produce adequate insulin. Surprisingly, the removal of GRP94 did not affect the viability of the cell. Researchers found that nothing happened to the cells after the removal of the protein.
No doubt this is surprising, as one would anticipate that the beta cells would die from stress after the accumulation of huge amounts of misfolded proinsulin inside the cells. It is similar to removing the bearing beam without weakening the structure.
Therefore, GRP94 protein is very important and plays a vital role and that beta cell produces effective responses to deal with outcomes of misfolding of proinsulin. Scientists are currently working to comprehend these responses and their consequences.
According to the scientists, the findings in the future may make it possible to manipulate the process from proinsulin to insulin in the beta cells of the body. If any medicine can be used to inhibit the assistant protein, then the result would be reduced secretion of insulin.
This would be useful for conditions like hyperinsulinemia, in which the body produces too much insulin. In the long term, they also hope the new information will be valuable about types 1 and 2 diabetes.
Researchers hope that these findings will guide the novel drug development.
The understanding of the biological processes behind the insulin production will help to modify the processes. Thus, it may inhibit overproduction of insulin as it occurs in children and adults with hyperinsulinemia.
In the long term, these findings may increase the production of insulin. They may ease the large production burden of beta cells regarding type 2 diabetes and maintain their secretion function without the need for insulin injections.