Beta Cell Hubs Dictate Pancreatic Islet Responses to Glucose

Natalie R. Johnston, Ryan K. Mitchell, Elizabeth Haythorne, Maria Paiva Pessoa, Francesca Semplici, Jorge Ferrer, Lorenzo Piemonti, Piero Marchetti, Marco Bugliani, Domenico Bosco, Ekaterine Berishvili, Philip Duncanson, Michael Watkinson, Johannes Broichhagen, Dirk Trauner, Guy A. Rutter, David J. Hodson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The arrangement of β cells within islets of Langerhans is critical for insulin release through the generation of rhythmic activity. A privileged role for individual β cells in orchestrating these responses has long been suspected, but not directly demonstrated. We show here that the β cell population in situ is operationally heterogeneous. Mapping of islet functional architecture revealed the presence of hub cells with pacemaker properties, which remain stable over recording periods of 2 to 3 hr. Using a dual optogenetic/photopharmacological strategy, silencing of hubs abolished coordinated islet responses to glucose, whereas specific stimulation restored communication patterns. Hubs were metabolically adapted and targeted by both pro-inflammatory and glucolipotoxic insults to induce widespread β cell dysfunction. Thus, the islet is wired by hubs, whose failure may contribute to type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-401
Number of pages13
JournalCell Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 13 2016


  • diabetes
  • imaging
  • insulin
  • islets
  • optogenetics
  • β cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Beta Cell Hubs Dictate Pancreatic Islet Responses to Glucose'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this