Sphingolipids in Type 1 Diabetes : Focus on Beta-Cells
Type 1 diabetes (T1DM) is a chronic autoimmune disease, with a strong genetic background, leading to a gradual loss of pancreatic beta-cells, which secrete insulin and control glucose homeostasis. Patients with T1DM require life-long substitution with insulin and are at high risk for development of severe secondary complications. The incidence of T1DM has been continuously growing in the last decades, indicating an important contribution of environmental factors. Accumulating data indicates that sphingolipids may be crucially involved in T1DM development. The serum lipidome of T1DM patients is characterized by significantly altered sphingolipid composition compared to nondiabetic, healthy probands. Recently, several polymorphisms in the genes encoding the enzymatic machinery for sphingolipid production have been identified in T1DM individuals. Evidence gained from studies in rodent islets and beta-cells exposed to cytokines indicates dysregulation of the sphingolipid biosynthetic pathway and impaired function of several sphingolipids. Moreover, a number of glycosphingolipids have been suggested to act as beta-cell autoantigens. Studies in animal models of autoimmune diabetes, such as the Non Obese Diabetic (NOD) mouse and the LEW.1AR1-iddm (IDDM) rat, indicate a crucial role of sphingolipids in immune cell trafficking, islet infiltration and diabetes development. In this review, the up-to-date status on the findings about sphingolipids in T1DM will be provided, the under-investigated research areas will be identified and perspectives for future studies will be given.