Insulin-secreting cell lines: Classification, characteristics and potential applications

V. Poitout, L. K. Olson, R. P. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


The use of primary β-cells in biochemical and molecular research is limited by the availability of pancreatic endocrine tissue. Numerous investigators have attempted to establish an insulin-secreting cell line that retains normal regulation of insulin secretion. Different approaches have been used, including induction of pancreatic tumours by irradiation or viral infection, immortalization of β-cells in vitro, and development of transgenic mice with targeted expression of a recombinant oncogene in the β-cell. Few of these attempts have proven successful, because cell differentiation and proliferation capacities are mutually exclusive. The most widely used insulin-secreting cell lines are RIN, HIT, βTC, MIN6 and INS-1 cells. These cells contain mainly insulin and small amounts of glucagon and somatostatin. RIN cells, except for the subclone RIN-38, are not glucose-responsive. HIT cells and βTC cells secrete insulin in response to glucose, but their dose-response curve is markedly shifted to the left. MIN6, INS-1 and a newly available subclone of βTC cells (βTC-6 F7) are reported to retain normal regulation of glucose-induced insulin secretion. Although the behaviour of none of these cell lines perfectly mimics primary β-cell physiology, they are extremely valuable tools for the study of molecular events underlying β-cell function and dysfunction. In addition, insulin-secreting cell lines represent a potential source of transplantable tissue to overcome the limited availability of primary islets for this procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-14
Number of pages8
JournalDiabetes and Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • cell line
  • diabetes mellitus
  • immortalization
  • insulin
  • β-cell


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