Glucose-dependent sequestration of Ca2+ into endoplasmic reticulum and its subsequent release play an important role in the control of intracellular Ca2+ concentration, which regulates insulin secretion in pancreatic β-cells. The active uptake of cytosolic Ca2+ into endoplasmic reticulum is mediated by sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPases (SERCAs). We found, using RT-PCR with isoform-specific primers, that SERCA 2 and SERCA 3 mRNAs are co-expressed in human and rat islets of Langerhans and in the RINm5F β-cell line. Immunochemical analysis also revealed the existence of two SERCA proteins with molecular masses of 110 and 115 kDa in β-cell membranes. The 115 kDa protein was identified as SERCA 2b by its reaction with an isoform-specific antibody and the 110 kDa protein most probably corresponds to SERCA 3. The presence of two functionally different SERCA isoforms raises the possibility that they are located in distinct Ca2+ stores. There is evidence that altered Ca2+ handling in the β-cell may contribute to the decreased insulin secretion seen in non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). We therefore investigated SERCA 2 and SERCA 3 mRNA expression by quantitative RT-PCR in islets prepared from Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats, a non-obese spontaneous model of NIDDM. We found a significant reduction (about 68%) in SERCA 3 isoform expression. Since SERCA 2 expression was not significantly reduced, these genes are independently regulated and probably play distinct roles in islets of Langerhans. The marked decrease of SERCA 3 expression may constitute a defect in Ca2+ signalling in GK rat islets which could be a component of NIDDM.

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