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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 749734, 11 pages
Review Article

MicroRNAs: Novel Players in the Dialogue between Pancreatic Islets and Immune System in Autoimmune Diabetes

1Diabetes Unit, Department of Medicine, Surgery and Neurosciences, University of Siena, 53100 Siena, Italy
2Fondazione Umberto Di Mario ONLUS, c/o Toscana Life Science Park, 53100 Siena, Italy

Received 9 April 2015; Revised 29 June 2015; Accepted 1 July 2015

Academic Editor: Joilson O. Martins

Copyright © 2015 Giuliana Ventriglia et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression in all cell types. Therefore, these tiny noncoding RNA molecules are involved in a wide range of biological processes, exerting functional effects at cellular, tissue, and organ level. In pancreatic islets of Langerhans, including beta-cells, microRNAs are involved in cell differentiation as well as in insulin secretion, while in immune cells they have been shown to play pivotal roles in development, activation, and response to antigens. Indeed, it is not surprising that microRNA alterations can lead to the development of several diseases, including type 1 diabetes (T1D). Type 1 diabetes is the result of a selective autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing beta-cells, characterized by islet inflammation (insulitis), which leads to chronic hyperglycemia. Given the growing importance of microRNA in the pathophysiology of T1D, the aim of this review is to summarize the most recent data on the potential involvement of microRNAs in autoimmune diabetes. Specifically, we will focus on three different aspects: (i) microRNAs as regulators of immune homeostasis in autoimmune diabetes; (ii) microRNA expression in pancreatic islet inflammation; (iii) microRNAs as players in the dialogue between the immune system and pancreatic endocrine cells.