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International Journal of Experimental Diabetes Research
Volume 3 (2002), Issue 1, Pages 69-74

Growth Factor-Dependent Proliferation of the Pancreatic β-cell Line βTC-tet: An Assay for β-cell Mitogenic Factors

Department of Human Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel

Received 30 August 2001; Revised 28 October 2001

Copyright © 2002 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. 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.


The ability to expand normal pancreatic islet β cells in culture would significantly advance the prospects of cell therapy for diabetes. A number of growth factors can stimulate limited islet cell replication, however other factors may exist which are more effective β-cell-specific mitogens. The search for novel β-cell growth factors has been hampered by the lack of a β-cell-specific proliferation assay. We developed a simple and sensitive assay for β-cell growth factors based on a conditionally-transformed mouse β-cell line (βTC-tet). These cells express the SV40 T antigen (Tag) oncoprotein under control of the tetracycline (Tc) operon regulatory system. In the presence of Tc, Tag expression is tightly shut off and the cells undergo complete growth arrest. Here we show that the growth-arrested cells can proliferate in response to growth factors in the absence of Tag. Using this assay, a number of growth factors previously shown to be mitogenic to a mixed islet cell population were found to induce proliferation of pure β cells. We conclude that growth-arrested βTC-tet cells can be employed in a survey of factors from various sources for identifying novel factors with β-cell mitogenic activity.