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Journal of Diabetes Research
Volume 2015, Article ID 512618, 12 pages
Review Article

Roles of Pyruvate, NADH, and Mitochondrial Complex I in Redox Balance and Imbalance in β Cell Function and Dysfunction

1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UNT System College of Pharmacy, University of North Texas Health Science Center, 3500 Camp Bowie Boulevard, Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA
2Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Gannan Medical University, Ganzhou, Jiangxi 341000, China

Received 4 September 2014; Revised 26 November 2014; Accepted 27 November 2014

Academic Editor: Chen Wang

Copyright © 2015 Xiaoting Luo 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.


Pancreatic β cells not only use glucose as an energy source, but also sense blood glucose levels for insulin secretion. While pyruvate and NADH metabolic pathways are known to be involved in regulating insulin secretion in response to glucose stimulation, the roles of many other components along the metabolic pathways remain poorly understood. Such is the case for mitochondrial complex I (NADH/ubiquinone oxidoreductase). It is known that normal complex I function is absolutely required for episodic insulin secretion after a meal, but the role of complex I in β cells in the diabetic pancreas remains to be investigated. In this paper, we review the roles of pyruvate, NADH, and complex I in insulin secretion and hypothesize that complex I plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of β cell dysfunction in the diabetic pancreas. This hypothesis is based on the establishment that chronic hyperglycemia overloads complex I with NADH leading to enhanced complex I production of reactive oxygen species. As nearly all metabolic pathways are impaired in diabetes, understanding how complex I in the β cells copes with elevated levels of NADH in the diabetic pancreas may provide potential therapeutic strategies for diabetes.