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The aim of this study was to simplify, improve and validate quantitative measurement of the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔψM) in pancreatic β-cells. This built on our previously introduced calculation of the absolute magnitude of ΔψM in intact cells, using time-lapse imaging of the non-quench mode fluorescence of tetramethylrhodamine methyl ester and a bis-oxonol plasma membrane potential (ΔψP) indicator. ΔψM is a central mediator of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in pancreatic β-cells. ΔψM is at the crossroads of cellular energy production and demand, therefore precise assay of its magnitude is a valuable tool to study how these processes interplay in insulin secretion. Dispersed islet cell cultures allowed cell type-specific, single-cell observations of cell-to-cell heterogeneity of ΔψM and ΔψP. Glucose addition caused hyperpolarization of ΔψM and depolarization of ΔψP. The hyperpolarization was a monophasic step increase, even in cells where the ΔψP depolarization was biphasic. The biphasic response of ΔψP was associated with a larger hyperpolarization of ΔψM than the monophasic response. Analysis of the relationships between ΔψP and ΔψM revealed that primary dispersed β-cells responded to glucose heterogeneously, driven by variable activation of energy metabolism. Sensitivity analysis of the calibration was consistent with β-cells having substantial cell-to-cell variations in amounts of mitochondria, and this was predicted not to impair the accuracy of determinations of relative changes in ΔψM and ΔψP. Finally, we demonstrate a significant problem with using an alternative ΔψM probe, rhodamine 123. In glucose-stimulated and oligomycin-inhibited β-cells the principles of the rhodamine 123 assay were breached, resulting in misleading conclusions

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Originally published in PLOS One, 11(7) [Article e0159199]. Licensed under CC BY 4.0. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0159199