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The nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) pathway is a master regulator of inflammatory processes and is implicated in insulin resistance and pancreatic β cell dysfunction in the metabolic syndrome. Whereas canonical NF-κB signaling is well studied, there is little information on the divergent noncanonical NF-κB pathway in the context of pancreatic islet dysfunction. Here, we demonstrate that pharmacological activation of the noncanonical NF-κB-inducing kinase (NIK) disrupts glucose homeostasis in zebrafish in vivo. We identify NIK as a critical negative regulator of β cell function, as pharmacological NIK activation results in impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in mouse and human islets. NIK levels are elevated in pancreatic islets isolated from diet-induced obese (DIO) mice, which exhibit increased processing of noncanonical NF-κB components p100 to p52, and accumulation of RelB. TNF and receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL), two ligands associated with diabetes, induce NIK in islets. Mice with constitutive β cell-intrinsic NIK activation present impaired insulin secretion with DIO. NIK activation triggers the noncanonical NF-κB transcriptional network to induce genes identified in human type 2 diabetes genome-wide association studies linked to β cell failure. These studies reveal that NIK contributes a central mechanism for β cell failure in diet-induced obesity.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Med

Publication Date





1239 - 1254


Animals, Blotting, Western, DNA Primers, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Insulin, Insulin Secretion, Insulin-Secreting Cells, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Obese, Obesity, Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases, Signal Transduction, Zebrafish