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A High-content In Vitro Pancreatic Islet β-cell Replication Discovery Platform

Published: July 16th, 2016



1Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Critical challenges for the diabetes research field are to understand the molecular mechanisms that regulate islet β-cell replication and to develop methods for stimulating β-cell regeneration. Herein a high-content screening method to identify and assess the β-cell replication-promoting activity of small molecules is presented.

Loss of insulin-producing β-cells is a central feature of diabetes. While a variety of potential replacement therapies are being explored, expansion of endogenous insulin-producing pancreatic islet β-cells remains an attractive strategy. β-cells have limited spontaneous regenerative activity; consequently, a crucial research effort is to develop a precise understanding of the molecular pathways that restrain β-cell growth and to identify drugs capable of overcoming these restraints. Herein an automated high-content image-based primary-cell screening method to identify β-cell replication-promoting small molecules is presented. Several, limitations of prior methodologies are surmounted. First, use of primary islet cells rather than an immortalized cell-line maximizes retention of in vivo growth restraints. Second, use of mixed-composition islet-cell cultures rather than a β-cell-line allows identification of both lineage-restricted and general growth stimulators. Third, the technique makes practical the use of primary islets, a limiting resource, through use of a 384-well format. Fourth, detrimental experimental variability associated with erratic islet culture quality is overcome through optimization of isolation, dispersion, plating and culture parameters. Fifth, the difficulties of accurately and consistently measuring the low basal replication rate of islet endocrine-cells are surmounted with optimized immunostaining parameters, automated data acquisition and data analysis; automation simultaneously enhances throughput and limits experimenter bias. Notable limitations of this assay are the use of dispersed islet cultures which disrupts islet architecture, the use of rodent rather than human islets and the inherent limitations of throughput and cost associated with the use of primary cells. Importantly, the strategy is easily adapted for human islet replication studies. This assay is well suited for investigating the mitogenic effect of substances on β-cells and the molecular mechanisms that regulate β-cell growth.

Diabetes encompasses a collection of disorders sharing the common end-point of disrupted glucose homeostasis. Although the pathogenic mechanisms of diabetes subtypes are distinct, they share the consequence of decreased β-cell mass, i.e., loss of insulin production capacity1,2. Presently, diabetes treatment strategies rely upon chronic administration of exogenous insulin, pharmacologic stimulation of insulin production or enhancement of insulin sensitivity, and rarely, the transplantation of pancreatic islets or whole pancreas3,4. Regrettably, the success of these strategies is short-lived and/or fails to sufficiently recapitulate t....

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This protocol was carried out in accordance with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) of Stanford University School of Medicine. The described protocol is scaled for islet isolation from six 250 - 300 g (8 - 9 weeks old) male Sprague Dawley rats, which is sufficient to generate 228 wells of a 384-well plate for islet-cell replication assessment.

1. Material Preparation

  1. Prepare coating media prior to initiating islet isolation by collecting the conditioned media of 804G rat b.......

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To assess β-cell or α-cell replication, a four-color assay protocol is required. First, objects are identified by DAPI staining (Channel 1, 386 nm). Next, β-cells (event 1) are counted: objects that co-express PDX-1+ (channel 2, 650 nm) and peri-nuclear insulin (channel 3, 549 nm). Subsequently, replicating β-cells (event 2) are counted: β-cells (event 1) that co-express Ki-67 (channel 4, 485 nm) (Figure 3). The percentage of replicatin.......

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Experimental methods for studying the molecular pathways that control β-cell growth and regeneration are important tools for diabetes researchers. Herein, a rat-islet-based screening platform to identify and characterize small-molecule stimulators of β-cell replication is presented.

While most aspects of this protocol are easily performed by experienced researchers, a few steps require particular technique. First, during islet isolation, cannulation of the bile-duct without disruptin.......

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This work was supported by NIDDK grants DK098143 and DK101530 from the NIH (JPA), Stanford's Spectrum Child Health Research Institute (CHRI) and SPARK (UL1 TR001085, JPA).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
250g male Male Sprague Dawly Rat Charles River Stain # 400
12 cm teeth tisuue forceps Fine Science Tools 11021-12
11.5 cm fine scissors Fine Science Tools 14058-11
14.5 cm surgical scissors Fine Science Tools 14001-14
16 cm curved forceps Fine Science Tools 11003-16
12 cm curved hepostat Fine Science Tools 13011-12
12 cm scalpel handle Fine Science Tools 10003-12
Tissue sieve-30 mesh Bellco Glass 1985-85000
Cizyme RI, 375,000 CDA units VitaCyte 005-1030
Hanks' Balanced Salt solution (Ca++ and Mg++) Gibco 24020-117
Ketamine HCl (200 mg/20 ml) JHP Pharmaceuticals NDC# 42023-113-10 to make anesthetic cocktail 
Xylazine (5 g/50 ml) LLOYD NADA# 139-236 to make anesthetic cocktail 
Histopaque 1077 Sigma H-1077 to make histopaque 1100
Histopaque 1119 Sigma H-1119 to make histopaque 1100
Newborn Calf Serum 500 ml Hyclone SH30118.03
Hanks' Balanced Salt solution Hyclone SH30268.01
Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium/Low Glucose  Hyclone SH30021.01
Functionality/Viability Solution  Mediatech 99-768-CV
RPMI1640 media  Hyclone SH30096.01 to make conditioned medium
804G rat bladder carcinoma cell-line Available upon request to make conditioned medium
Fetal Bovine Serum, Qualified Gibco 26160
GlutaMax-I Gibco 35050-061
Penicillin (5,000 IU/ml/Strptomycin (5 mg/ml)  MP Biomedicals 1670049
Formamide 500 mL Fisher BioReagents BP227-500
Antigen Unmasking Solution 250 mL (PH 6.0) Vector Laboratories H-3300 to make 0.15 M Sodium Sitrate solution
Dextrose, Anhydrous EMD Chemicals DX0145-1 to make 1 M glucose solution
Nomal Donkey Serum (Powder) Jackson ImmunoResearch 017-000-121
Triton X-100 Sigma T8787-100ML
Mouse anti-human Ki67 antibody BD Biosciences 556003
Goat anti-human PDX-1 antibody R&D Systems AF2419
Polyclonal Guinea Pig anti-insulin antibody Dako 2016-08
Polyclonal Rabbit anti-glucagon antibody Dako 2014-06
Polyclonal Rabbit anti-somatostatin antibody Dako 2011-08
Polyclonal chicken anti-vimentin antibody abcam ab24525
Biotin-SP-conjugated, Donkey Anti-Mouse IgG Jackson ImmunoResearch 715-065-150
StreptAvidin, Alex Flour 488 conjugated  Invitrogen S32354
Rhodamine-conjugated Donkey Anti-Goat IgG  Jackson ImmunoResearch 705-025-147
Rhodamine-conjugated Donkey Anti-Guinea Pig IgG  Jackson ImmunoResearch 706-025-148
Rhodamine-conjugated Donkey Anti-Rabbit IgG Jackson ImmunoResearch 711-025-152
Cy 5-conjugated Donkey Anti-Guinea Pig IgG  Jackson ImmunoResearch 706-175-148
Cy 5-conjugated Donkey Anti-Goat IgG Jackson ImmunoResearch 705-175-147
Cy 5-conjugated Donkey Anti-Rabbit IgG Jackson ImmunoResearch 711-175-152
Cy 5-conjugated Donkey Anti-Chicken IgG Jackson ImmunoResearch 703-175-155
DAPI Millipore S7113
Disposable Reagent Reservoir 25 mL Sorenson BioScience 39900
384 well, black/clear, tissue culture treated plate BD Falcon 353962
96 well, black/clear, tissue culture treated plate Costar 3603
Multi-channel pipettor Costar 4880
12-channel vaccume aspirator Drummond 3-000-096
Cell Scraper Falcon 353085
Isotemp Water Bath Model 2223  Fisher Scientific
High-content screening instrument: ArrayScan VTI Thermo Scientific

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