Chronic exposure of pancreatic β-cells to long-chain fatty acids can cause loss of secretory function and enhanced apoptosis by a process of ‘lipotoxicity’, which may be a contributory factor to the rising incidence of Type 2 diabetes in humans. However, when incubated in vitro, β-cells respond differentially to long-chain saturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, suggesting that these molecules may regulate cell functionality by different mechanisms. In particular, it is clear that, whereas saturated fatty acids [e.g. palmitate (C16:0)] exert detrimental effects on β-cells, the equivalent mono-unsaturated species [e.g. palmitoleate (C16:1)] are well tolerated. Indeed, mono-unsaturated species are potently cytoprotective. The present review explores the differential effects of these various fatty acids on β-cell viability and considers the possible mechanisms involved in cytoprotection by mono-unsaturates.

You do not currently have access to this content.