UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Activation of the Nlrp3 inflammasome in infiltrating macrophages by endocannabinoids mediates beta cell loss in type 2 diabetes

UMMS Affiliation

Program in Molecular Medicine

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Document Type



Animals; Apoptosis; Arachidonic Acids; Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists; Carrier Proteins; Cell Line; Cell Survival; Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2; Endocannabinoids; Humans; Hyperglycemia; Inflammasomes; Insulin Resistance; Insulin-Secreting Cells; Islets of Langerhans; Macrophages; Male; Mice; Mice, Inbred C57BL; Mice, Knockout; Obesity; Polyunsaturated Alkamides; RNA Interference; RNA, Small Interfering; Rats


Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Endocrine System Diseases | Endocrinology | Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism | Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) progresses from compensated insulin resistance to beta cell failure resulting in uncompensated hyperglycemia, a process replicated in the Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rat. The Nlrp3 inflammasome has been implicated in obesity-induced insulin resistance and beta cell failure. Endocannabinoids contribute to insulin resistance through activation of peripheral CB1 receptors (CB(1)Rs) and also promote beta cell failure. Here we show that beta cell failure in adult ZDF rats is not associated with CB(1)R signaling in beta cells, but rather in M1 macrophages infiltrating into pancreatic islets, and that this leads to activation of the Nlrp3-ASC inflammasome in the macrophages. These effects are replicated in vitro by incubating wild-type human or rodent macrophages, but not macrophages from CB(1)R-deficient (Cnr1(-/-)) or Nlrp3(-/-) mice, with the endocannabinoid anandamide. Peripheral CB(1)R blockade, in vivo depletion of macrophages or macrophage-specific knockdown of CB(1)R reverses or prevents these changes and restores normoglycemia and glucose-induced insulin secretion. These findings implicate endocannabinoids and inflammasome activation in beta cell failure and identify macrophage-expressed CB(1)R as a therapeutic target in T2DM.

DOI of Published Version



Nat Med. 2013 Sep;19(9):1132-40. doi: 10.1038/nm.3265. Epub 2013 Aug 18. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Nature medicine

PubMed ID