Beta cell function: the role of macrophage migration inhibitory factor
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During evolution, beta cells adapted to a sole aim: the production and stimulus-dependent secretion of insulin. This acquired specificity was accompanied by a loss of protection mechanisms predisposing beta cell to a high vulnerability. Among beta cell-damaging molecules, a new one has been identified recently: macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF). MIF was at first designated as a T-cell product that inhibits random movement of macrophages. Over the years, the number of functions attributed to this protein increased significantly, positioning MIF at the top of inflammatory cascade in the combat against infection and in immunoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases. This exceptionally versatile molecule regulates insulin secretion in physiological conditions, while in pathological states it alters beta cell function and induces their apoptosis or necrosis and affects beta cell neoplasia.