Tohoku J. Exp. Med., 2021 August, 254(4)

Invited Review

Regulation of Adaptive Cell Proliferation by Vagal Nerve Signals for Maintenance of Whole-Body Homeostasis: Potential Therapeutic Target for Insulin-Deficient Diabetes

Junta Imai1

1Department of Metabolism and Diabetes, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

In insulin-resistant states such as obesity, pancreatic β-cells proliferate to prevent blood glucose elevations. Failure of this β-cells proliferative response leads to the development of diabetes. On the other hand, when organs are damaged, cells proliferate to repair the organs. Therefore, these proliferations are compensatory mechanisms aimed at maintaining whole-body homeostasis. We previously discovered vagal signal-mediated systems regulating adaptive proliferation of β-cells and hepatocytes. Neuron-mediated liver-β-cell inter-organ crosstalk is involved in promotion of β-cell proliferation during obesity, and in this system, vagal signals directly stimulate β-cell proliferation. Meanwhile, in the liver, the multi-step mechanisms whereby vagal nerve signals activate hepatic resident macrophages are involved in hepatocyte proliferation after severe injury. Diabetes mellitus develops on the pathological basis of insufficient insulin action. Insulin action insufficiency is attributable to insulin resistance, i.e., the failure of insulin to exert sufficient effects, and/or to impairment of insulin secretion. Impairment of insulin secretion is attributable not only to the β-cell dysfunction but also to functional β-cell mass reduction. In this regard, there are already therapeutic options to increase insulin secretion from residual β-cells, such as sulfonyl urea and incretin-related drugs. In contrast, there are as yet no applicable therapeutic strategies to increase functional β-cell mass in vivo. Therefore, we have conducted the basic investigations to tackle this issue based on the discovery of neuron-mediated liver-β-cell inter-organ crosstalk. This review introduces vagal signal-mediated regulatory systems of adaptive cell proliferation in vivo and efforts to develop cell-increasing therapies based on vagal nerve-mediated cell proliferation.

Keywords —— β-cell; diabetes; FoxM1; inter-organ crosstalk; liver


Tohoku J. Exp. Med., 2021, 254, 245-252

Correspondence: Junta Imai, M.D., PhD., Department of Metabolism and Diabetes, Tohoku University School of Medicine, 2-1 Seiryo-machi, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8575, Japan.