We examined the role of Rictor/mammalian target of rapamycin complex 2 (mTORC2), a key component of the phosphotidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/mTORC2/AKT signaling pathway, in regulating both β-cell mass and function.
Mice with β-cell–specific deletions of Rictor or Pten were studied to determine the effects of deleting either or both genes on β-cell mass and glucose homeostasis.
Rictor null mice exhibited mild hyperglycemia and glucose intolerance caused by a reduction in β-cell mass, β-cell proliferation, pancreatic insulin content, and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Islets from these mice exhibited decreased AKT-S473 phosphorylation and increased abundance of FoxO1 and p27 proteins. Conversely, Pten null (β PtenKO) mice exhibited an increase in β-cell mass caused by increased cellular proliferation and size. Although β-cell mass was normal in mice lacking both Rictor and Pten (βDKO), their β-cells were larger than those in the β PtenKO mice. Even though the β-cell proliferation rate in the βDKO mice was lower than in the β PtenKO mice, there was a 12-fold increase the phosphorylation of AKT-T308.
PI3K/AKT signaling through mTORC2/pAKT-S473 plays a key role in maintaining normal β-cell mass. The phosphorylation of AKT-S473, by negatively regulating that of AKT-T308, is essential for maintaining a balance between β-cell proliferation and cell size in response to proliferative stimuli.