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Functional beta-cell maturation is marked by an increased glucose threshold and by expression of urocortin 3

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Insulin-expressing cells that have been differentiated from human pluripotent stem cells in vitro lack the glucose responsiveness characteristic of mature beta cells. Beta-cell maturation in mice was studied to find genetic markers that enable screens for factors that induce bona fide beta cells in vitro. We find that functional beta-cell maturation is marked by an increase in the glucose threshold for insulin secretion and by expression of the gene urocortin 3.

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Figure 1: Beta-cell maturation is defined by a decrease in GSIS sensitivity to low glucose levels and by the expression of Ucn3.
Figure 2: Ucn3 expression gradually increases during the course of mouse beta-cell maturation in vivo and is expressed in hESC-derived beta-like cells after differentiation and maturation in vivo, but not after differentiation in vitro.

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  • 07 May 2012

    In the HTML version of this article initially published, an extra character in a different font of the letter ‘š’ appeared. The error has been corrected in the HTML version of the article.


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We thank W. Vale (Salk Institute) for providing anti-human Ucn3 antibody, K. Blum for writing the MATLAB BioGUI for analysis of GSIS, A. Kweudjeu for help with transcriptional arrays, C. Honore for help with FACS analyses, A. Roose, A. Cheng and F. Deng for excellent technical assistance, and D. Cohen, Y. Mayshar and F. Pagliuca for critical reading of the manuscript. We are grateful to all members of the Melton laboratory and the Harvard Medical School Critical Discussion Group for helpful discussions and experimental advice. B.B. was supported by European Molecular Biology Organization and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation post-doctoral fellowships. D.A.M. is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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B.B. and D.A.M. conceived and designed the research. B.B., S.H., C.S., C.B. and A.R. performed the experiments. B.B. and D.A.M. analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Douglas A Melton.

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Competing interests

A.Z. is an employee of BetaLogics, a division of Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, Raritan, NJ, USA.

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Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Methods and Supplementary Figs. 1–5 (PDF 2191 kb)

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Blum, B., Hrvatin, S., Schuetz, C. et al. Functional beta-cell maturation is marked by an increased glucose threshold and by expression of urocortin 3. Nat Biotechnol 30, 261–264 (2012).

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