Gene Expression Unit
We are interested in RNA expression of mammalian insulin producing pancreatic beta cells in order to explain how these cells function in normal health and how dysfunction can cause inappropriate release of insulin and diabetes. We study the profound phenotypic changes that occur in rodent beta cells during pregnancy. One of these changes concern serotonin production and secretion by a subpopulation of a heterogeneous beta cell population. We want to understand why only part of the beta cells produces serotonin and what could be the physiological function of this phenomenon. Second, we are interested in genes that are preferentially or specifically expressed in beta cells (the zinc transporter ZnT8 being an example). Third, we discovered by serendipity that genes exist that are expressed in all tissues, except in one tissue. We found for instance that some genes are specifically repressed in beta cells, this in order to prevent the release of insulin under circumstances that this is not appropriate. We were the first to report the existence of these so called “disallowed genes” and we want to better understand how these genes are regulated in normal beta cells and if environmental changes can cause a change in repression.