In excitable tissues, the endogenous dipeptide carnosine (CAR, β-Ala-l-His) sustains homeostatic responses to various challenges. By eliciting hypoglycemic effects via actions on the autonomic nervous system and protection of pancreatic beta-cells, CAR is also relevant in diabetes. We investigated the expression of genes involved in CAR biosynthesis, degradation, and membrane transport pathways, in the pancreas and brains of mice treated with streptozotocin (STZ) and then exposed to dietary CAR. We induced hyperglycemia by STZ intraperitoneal injections; then, STZ-treated mice received drinking water with or without CAR for two weeks. We report that CAR administration elicits beneficial effects on blood glucose levels and weight loss in STZ-treated mice and, remarkably, on the insulin gene products in the pancreas, preserving gene expression from STZ challenge. Also, we describe mRNA downregulation of the Slc15a2/Pept2 (dipeptide transporter) and Cndp2 (intracellular dipeptidase) genes in the pancreas of hyperglycemic mice, and dysregulation of Carns1 (CAR synthase), Pept2 and Cndp2 in brains; interestingly, dietary CAR elicits counteracting effects. These expression patterns associate with variations of CAR content in tissues of mice. Overall, our report suggests a direct role of CAR in the diabetes-affected pancreas and in the diabetes-targeted CNS, proposing (dys) regulation of CAR’s homeostasis as a marker condition.
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