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Diabetes. 2014 May;63(5):1685-97. doi: 10.2337/db13-1048. Epub 2014 Jan 23.

Decreasing cx36 gap junction coupling compensates for overactive KATP channels to restore insulin secretion and prevent hyperglycemia in a mouse model of neonatal diabetes.

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  • 1Department of Bioengineering, University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO.


Mutations to the ATP-sensitive K(+) channel (KATP channel) that reduce the sensitivity of ATP inhibition cause neonatal diabetes mellitus via suppression of β-cell glucose-stimulated free calcium activity ([Ca(2+)]i) and insulin secretion. Connexin-36 (Cx36) gap junctions also regulate islet electrical activity; upon knockout of Cx36, β-cells show [Ca(2+)]i elevations at basal glucose. We hypothesized that in the presence of overactive ATP-insensitive KATP channels, a reduction in Cx36 would allow elevations in glucose-stimulated [Ca(2+)]i and insulin secretion to improve glucose homeostasis. To test this, we introduced a genetic knockout of Cx36 into mice that express ATP-insensitive KATP channels and measured glucose homeostasis and islet metabolic, electrical, and insulin secretion responses. In the normal presence of Cx36, after expression of ATP-insensitive KATP channels, blood glucose levels rapidly rose to >500 mg/dL. Islets from these mice showed reduced glucose-stimulated [Ca(2+)]i and no insulin secretion. In mice lacking Cx36 after expression of ATP-insensitive KATP channels, normal glucose levels were maintained. Islets from these mice had near-normal glucose-stimulated [Ca(2+)]i and insulin secretion. We therefore demonstrate a novel mechanism by which islet function can be recovered in a monogenic model of diabetes. A reduction of gap junction coupling allows sufficient glucose-stimulated [Ca(2+)]i and insulin secretion to prevent the emergence of diabetes.

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