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Elevated Markers of Death Receptor-Activated Apoptosis are Associated with Increased Risk for Development of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

  • Ingrid Yao Mattisson
  • Harry Björkbacka
  • Maria Wigren
  • Andreas Edsfeldt
  • Olle Melander
  • Gunilla Nordin Fredrikson
  • Eva Bengtsson
  • Isabel Gonçalves
  • Marju Orho-Melander
  • Gunnar Engström
  • Peter Almgren
  • Jan Nilsson
Publishing year: 2017-12-01
Language: English
Pages: 187-197
Publication/Series: EBioMedicine
Volume: 26
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

Background An increased rate of cell death by apoptosis has been implicated in both diabetes and atherosclerosis. Apoptosis can be induced through activation of the death receptors TNF receptor 1 (TNFR-1), TRAIL receptor 2 (TRAILR-2) and Fas. Soluble forms of these receptors are found in plasma. The objective of this study was to determine if soluble death receptors are markers of receptor-activated apoptosis and predict risk for development of diabetes and cardiovascular events. Methods Fas ligand was used to induce apoptosis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and INS-1 pancreatic β-cells and release of TNFR-1, TRAILR-2 and Fas measured by ELISA. Proximity Extension Assay was used to analyze plasma levels of TNFR-1, TRAILR-2 and Fas in baseline samples of 4742 subjects in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study and related to development of diabetes and cardiovascular events during 19.2 years of follow-up. Results Activation of apoptosis by Fas ligand was associated with release of soluble Fas, TNFR-1 and TRAILR-2 in both cell types. Circulating levels of all three receptors were higher in subjects with diabetes and correlated with markers of impaired glucose metabolism in non-diabetic subjects. Among the latter, those in the highest tertile of soluble Fas, TNFR-1 and TRAILR-2 had increased risk for development of diabetes and cardiovascular events. These associations became weaker when adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors in Cox regression models, but remained significant for TRAILR-2 with incident diabetes, cardiovascular mortality, myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke, and for TNFR-1 with myocardial infarction. Conclusion The present study demonstrates an association between several cardiovascular risk factors and elevated levels of circulating markers of apoptotic cell death. It also shows that subjects with high levels of these biomarkers have increased risk of diabetes and CVD. This implies that soluble death receptors are markers of β-cell and vascular injury and potentially could be used as surrogate markers of therapeutic efficiency in risk factor interventions.


  • Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems
  • Apoptosis
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Myocardial infarction


  • Cardiovascular Research - Immunity and Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular Research - Hypertension
  • Diabetes - Cardiovascular Disease
  • Cardiovascular Research - Epidemiology
  • ISSN: 2352-3964
E-mail: jan [dot] nilsson [at] med [dot] lu [dot] se

Lund University Diabetes Centre, CRC, SUS Malmö, Jan Waldenströms gata 35, House 91:12. SE-214 28 Malmö. Telephone: +46 40 39 10 00