Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a multifactorial and polygenetic disease, although its exact etiology remains poorly understood. The objective of this study was to identify key biomarkers and potential molecular mechanisms in the development of T2D. Human RNA-Seq datasets across different tissues (GSE18732, GSE41762, and GSE78721) were collected from the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database and differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between T2D and controls were identified using differential analysis. A total of 90 overlapping DEGs were identified, among which YTHDF2, DDX21, and MDM2 were considered as key genes due to their central positions in the PPI network and the same regulatory pattern in T2D. Logistic regression analysis showed that low expression of the key genes increased the risk of T2D. Enrichment analysis revealed that the key genes are involved in various important biological functions and signaling pathways including Notch, Fork head box O (FOXO), and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt. RT-qPCR and Western blot analysis showed that all three key genes were down-regulated in pancreatic islets of both prediabetic and diabetic mouse models. Finally, the insulin-sensitizer, pioglitazone was used to treat db/db mice and immunofluorescence analysis showed that the expression of all three key genes was significantly down-regulated in db/db islets, an effect that was overcome by pioglitazone treatment. Together, these results suggest that the identified key genes could be involved in the development of T2D and serve as potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for this disease.
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