Dietary microbial toxins and type 1 diabetes

M. A. Myers, K. D. Hettiarachchi, J. P. Ludeman, A. J. Wilson, C. R. Wilson, Paul Zimmet

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Toxins may promote type 1 diabetes by modifying or damaging the β cell causing release of autoantigens. Streptomyces is a common soil bacterium that produces many toxic compounds. Some Streptomyces can infect vegetables, raising the possibility of dietary exposure to toxins. We aimed to identify toxins that erode cellular proton gradients in extracts of Streptomyces and infested vegetables and to establish the effect of low doses of these toxins on pancreatic islets in mice. The vacuolar ATPase inhibitors, bafilomycin and concanamycin, and the ionophore, nigericin, were identified in extracts from 4 of 13 Streptomyces isolated from infested potatoes and in potatoes themselves. Injection of bafilomycin A1 into mice impaired glucose tolerance, reduced islet size, and decreased relative β cell mass. Thus, exposure to small quantities of bafilomycin in the diet may contribute to the cause of type 1 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-422
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Streptomyces
  • Vacuolar ATPases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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