Gillings School Directory
Eric Klett, MD

Eric Klett, MD

Clinical Associate Professor
Department of Nutrition
Clinical Associate Professor
Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism
  • 8018 Burnett Womack
  • CB 7172
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Dr. Eric Klett, a practicing Endocrinologist, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine and Nutrition whose research interest is in the role of dietary fatty acid and intra-pancreatic beta-cell fatty acid metabolism on glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). Insulin secretion is a complex process initiated by nutrient secretagogues, including glucose and fatty acids. GSIS is augmented by saturated long-chain fatty acids, but is impaired by ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Glucose and fatty acids are essential to GSIS, though the exact molecular mechanism by which specific fatty acids alter GSIS remains unclear.

Dr. Klett has examined the role of one of the rate-limiting enzymes in glycerolipid synthesis on beta-cell function, acyl-CoA synthetase (ACSL). Specifically, exposing beta-cells to ω-6 PUFAs (arachidonate or linoleate) not only impairs GSIS, but also reduces ACSL isoform-4 (ACSL4) mRNA and protein expression. Further, reducing ACSL4 specific activity decreases GSIS. The reduction in insulin secretion is due to the accumulation of unesterified epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs). The hypothesis that ACSL4 plays a key role in eicosanoid metabolism has significant implications in all disease processes that involve eicosanoid metabolism, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Dr. Klett’s contributions can be viewed here.

Keywords: Arachidonic acid, beta-cell, eicosanoid, insulin secretion, polyunsaturated fatty acid, acyl-CoA synthetase, epoxyeicosatrienoic acids

Research Activities

Type 2 Diabetes mellitus (T2DM), which accounts for 90 to 95% of diabetes worldwide is characterized by resistance of peripheral tissues to the actions of insulin, together with a relative deficiency of insulin secretion. Both insulin resistance and pancreatic ß-cell dysfunction are present early in the development of T2DM, but hyperglycemia (i.e. diabetes mellitus) does not develop without ß-cell dysfunction. Insulin secretion is a complex process initiated by nutrient secretagogues, including glucose and fatty acids (FA). Glucose and FA are essential to glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS), though the exact molecular mechanism by which FA augments GSIS remains unclear.

Using beta-cell models and rodent islets, my research aims to understand the role of intra-pancreatic beta-cell FA metabolism in FA augmented GSIS.

Practice Activities

  • General Endocrinology
  • Thyroid disease
  • Lipid disorders


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