Northern-blot analysis was used to demonstrate that an increase in extracellular glucose concentration increased the content of preproinsulin mRNA 2.3-fold in the beta-cell line HIT T15. A probe for the constitutively expressed glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase was used as a control. Mannoheptulose blocked this effect of glucose. A stimulatory effect on preproinsulin mRNA levels was also observed in response to mannose and to 4-methyl-2-oxopentanoate. However, galactose and arginine were ineffective. Glucagon, forskolin and dibutyryl cyclic AMP also elicited an increase in HIT-cell preproinsulin mRNA. The ability of the 5′ upstream region of the preproinsulin gene to mediate the effect of glucose and other metabolites on transcription was studied by using a bacterial reporter gene technique. HIT cells were transfected with a plasmid, pOK1, containing the upstream region of the rat insulin-1 gene (-345 to +1) linked to chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT). Co-transfection with a plasmid pRSV beta-gal containing beta-galactosidase driven by the Rous sarcoma virus promoter was used as a control for the efficiency of transfection; expression of CAT activity in transfected HIT cells was normalized by reference to expression of beta-galactosidase. Glucose caused a dose-dependent increase in expression of CAT activity, with a half-maximal effect at 5.5 mM and a maximum response of 4-fold. Mannoheptulose blocked this effect of glucose. Other metabolites (mannose, 4-methyl-2-oxopentanoate and leucine plus glutamine) were also able to increase insulin promoter-driven CAT expression, but galactose and arginine were ineffective. The stimulatory effect of glucose on CAT expression was not blocked by verapamil and was inhibited by increasing extracellular Ca2+ from 0.4 to 5 mM. Both dibutyryl cyclic AMP and forskolin caused an increase in insulin promoter-driven gene expression in the presence of 1 mM-glucose, but neither agent further increased the level of expression occurring in the presence of a maximally stimulating glucose concentration. The phorbol ester phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) also increased insulin promoter-driven CAT expression in the presence of 1 mM-, but not 11 mM-glucose. Staurosporine blocked the stimulatory effect not only of PMA but also of glucose and of dibutyryl cyclic AMP. We conclude that the 5′ upstream region of the insulin gene contains sequences responsible for mediating the stimulatory effect of glucose on insulin-gene transcription.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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